What Can I Expect After I Just Got Arrested
Q: What will happen to me after I am arrested and booked?
A: What will happen after you are arrested is:
- You have 72 hours to be charged
- Police write a report based on the incident for which you were arrested
- The report & any evidence will be presented to a District Attorney (DA)
- The DA reviews the police report- looking at statements you’ve made & your prior record
- Based on those things, they will decide if or what charges to file against you
- Within 72 hours you’ll be brought to court
- Charges will be filed or dropped & you will be arraigned on those charges.
Q: Am I really restricted to one phone call once I am in jail?
A: The one phone call is another one of the urban myths. You may or may not be permitted to use the phone. Generally, out of courtesy they will allow you to make one phone call. Often there are phones in the jail, and people can make as many phone calls as they want as long as there is somebody to accept collect charges.
Q: What is an “arraignment”?
A: When a magistrate or judge has received a complaint about you they will conduct an “arraignment.” This is when you are brought before the magistrate or judge and the charges are read against you.
You are allowed to do one of three things:
- Plead “not guilty”
- Plead “guilty”
- Plead “no contest”
Generally the arraignment is the place where you plead “not guilty.” It is also where the magistrate can set bail.
Q: What is an “indictment”?
A: An indictment is where the prosecutor brings evidence in front a grand jury (a private body of jurors). When the grand jury issues charges against you that is called an indictment. It is rarely used at the state level.
Q: What does it mean to “enter a plea”?
A: When charges are issued against an individual they can enter a plea. Generally, a “not guilty” plea is entered but they may change their plea at any point in time and plead guilty or sometimes no contest.
Q: What types of pleas can I enter at my arraignment?
A: At your arraignment when the charges are read against you, you can enter a variety of pleas. You can either enter a not guilty plea and you are allowed to go along the process and go to trial or at some point in the process, due usually to plea bargaining, you will enter a plea. Guilty is a plea, not guilty is a plea, no contest is a plea. Those are the only three options available.
Q: Can I change my plea?
A: Yes, you can change your plea. As a matter of fact, when somebody first pleads guilty at arraignment and we then work out a plea bargaining during the process, we call that a “change of plea,” and somebody changes their plea from a not guilty plea to either a guilty or no contest plea.
Q: What is a “plea bargain”?
A: Plea bargaining is the process that takes place between defense lawyers, prosecutors and judges to make sure that the criminal justice system operates efficiently.
For example: let’s say in the courthouse of your major city there are 10 courtrooms but there are 100 cases. Obviously, they can only do trials for 10 cases, maybe less because they need a couple of courtrooms just to run the things that go through. So, because every case can’t go to trial the people offer deals. They offer something less than full punishment in order for the person to plead guilty at an early phase.
Q: What is an “alibi defense”?
A: There’s a couple of “alibi defenses.” An “alibi” is, “I didn’t do it. I was somewhere else.” A typical alibi is the mom. Mom says, “He was with me.” Those aren’t very valid defenses because we know that mothers will always lie. So, an alibi defense is generally when you were somewhere else, and you can prove you were somewhere else. If you were on an airplane or in another country or city, that’s a good alibi defense. “I was at my mom’s house,” not so good.
Q: How can I plead insanity?
A: The legal definition of insanity is very different than the clinical definition of insanity.
In order for the legal definition of insanity to apply, you have to prove that:
- You did not know the difference between right and wrong (a very high standard)
- It was caused by a provable mental disease or defect
So, you literally have to prove that you didn’t know the difference between right and wrong, a very rare standard these days. It was taken away by what used to be called the “diminished capacity” defense, which means just what it says and was made famous by the “Twinkie defense”: “I ate too many Twinkies, my blood sugar went up, I couldn’t control myself.” Very different than the legal insanity defense today, which has been very tightened up and it’s rare.
Q: What is a “disclosure statement”?
A: During the course of a criminal trial there is what they call the “discovery process,” which means the people or the prosecutor has to turn over all of the evidence and all of the statements they have against the defendant to the defense attorney. This is a constitutional right.
Q: What is a “deposition”?
A: A deposition is something in a civil case where the attorney is allowed to ask the other parties questions under oath in the presence of a court reporter. It is not used in the criminal process.
Q: What is the legal “discovery process”?
A: The “discovery process” is now in many jurisdictions and is mutual where both sides have to turn over any evidence and statements that they have. Usually, it’s the prosecution turning over evidence against the defendant to the defense.
Q: What is “bail”?
A: Under the 8th Amendment, people have a constitutional right to reasonable bail. Many times, a jurisdiction will have a bail schedule that they go by where bail is posted for the offense. A person can either post the entire bail or through a bondsman post generally 10 percent. It is your promise to appear.
Q: What if I can’t afford bail?
A: If you can’t afford bail, you’re out of luck. You will stay in custody for the duration of the process unless the judge releases you “O.R.,” what they call “on your own recognizance.” Or the charges against you are dismissed or resolved, and you are sentenced.
Q: What is a “bail bondsman”?
A: A bail bondsman is a person that basically works for an insurance company and will post a surety bond for your bail. Let’s assume that the court posts your bail at $100,000. If you come up with a 10-percent fee to the bail bondsman and have property or sign over for a guarantee of $100,000, you can post something less, usually 10 percent of the bail and be able to get out on a surety bond. A bail bondsman facilitates that process.
Q: What is “skipping bail”?
A: Bail is posted for your promise to appear. If you have posted a bond or a family member has posted $10,000 bond for you to appear and you don’t show up, you have skipped bond and the bond is then forfeited and that money goes to the court and to the county.
Q: What is a “bench warrant”?
A: A “bench warrant” is when someone generally doesn’t appear in court when they have been ordered to appear. The judge will set a bail amount and issue a bench warrant, which means a warrant goes out into the system for the amount the judge set. If you fail to show up on “driving without a license,” the judge can set a $15,000 bench warrant which means if you ever come into contact with the police and they run into you and see you have a warrant, they will pick you up and the amount on your head will be $15,000. That will assure your appearance in court. You will then either be brought before the magistrate or you can post bond with a bondsman and get out. But then if you don’t show up again, the court gets paid $15,000.
Q: What options does a judge have when determining bail?
A: Most counties have what they call a “felony bail schedule” that sets the scheduled bail based on the seriousness of the offense, and that is something that is just kind of an agreement that the whole county goes by. The judge can raise bail or lower bail based on a variety of factors including likelihood of fleeing, the seriousness of the offense. They will also look at ties to the community.
Q: What happens if I don’t show up for my court date?
A: If you don’t show up for your court date, a variety of things can happen. If you have posted bail, you will lose that bail amount. If you have promised to appear, the judge can then issue you a bench warrant, and you will be arrested on that bench warrant. They don’t like it when you don’t show up to court. It’s always a good idea to show up in court, and it’s always a good idea to have a lawyer present for that.
Q: What is a “subpoena”?
A: A subpoena is a written document to either procure the presence of a witness or documents at a court hearing. If you have received a subpoena, it is an official document from the court. You are supposed to be there, you should show up.