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Criminal Law Blog

What Happens When You Are Arrested?

February 5, 2021

Being arrested is an unsettling experience. This is especially true if you do not have any experience with the criminal justice system and don’t know what to expect. The stakes can be especially high if you are facing serious charges and are trying to navigate what information you should provide to the police without compromising your eventual defense. You might also wonder when to call a criminal defense attorney. Here is a look at the arrest process and what happens next. 

When are you officially under arrest?

A point of confusion for many people is the difference between being detained by the police and actually being arrested. When you are detained by the police, you are merely being questioned or otherwise investigated, but you are not under arrest. An arrest occurs when the police state that you are being placed under arrest and read you your Miranda rights. Miranda rights are five specific rights to allow individuals to avoid self-incrimination when talking to the police, including the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present. Note that you should not provide any information to the police, whether detained or arrested, without an attorney present. 

Keep in mind that there can be some gray areas between detention and arrest, and sometimes, courts determine that what was described by officers as a detention was really an arrest. This is based on factors like the length of the detention and the nature of the restraint used in the detention. Your criminal defense attorney will ask you questions about any detention you experienced to decide if an arrest may have occurred instead, which would have an impact on the admissibility of statements you made. 

How is an arrest executed?

When officers place you under arrest and read you your rights, they will search you for weapons, contraband, and evidence. If you are arrested at a traffic stop, your car may be searched as well. The police will take your personal belongings and make an inventory list of those items. You’ll be asked to sign the inventory, which you should do if you agree that all your items are accounted for on the list. 

Next, you will be booked. During this process you will have pictures and fingerprints taken and provide basic information about yourself. You may also be asked to be part of a lineup and to provide a handwriting sample. If you are arrested but not booked within a reasonable amount of time, your attorney can obtain a writ of habeas corpus, which means that the police must bring you in front of a judge who will decide if the police really have a right to detain you. 

What happens after the initial arrest?

After arrest, your case is given to the prosecutor’s office, where the specific charges against you will be determined. These charges can be amended later. The prosecutor must do this within a certain time frame. Typically, charges have to be filed within 48-72 hours, depending on the state in which you are charged. 

When charges are filed, you will be arraigned. You should never attend an arraignment without a defense attorney to represent you. At the arraignment, the judge will ask if you plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest to the charges that have been filed. Your attorney will advise you what kind of a plea you should make. Note that you can have different pleas to different charges, if you are facing multiple counts. During the arraignment, the judge will also set bail. Some charges have strict, no-bail requirements. When bail is allowed, the judge will determine how to set yours based on the nature of your charges, your past criminal record, and your likelihood of showing up for your court dates, if you are released. 

When should I call a defense attorney?

If the police are investigating you for a crime, you should call a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. If you are being questioned during the detention phase, or if you have voluntarily gone to the police to answer questions as a person of interest, tell the police that you will not answer any inquiries without your lawyer present. As a rule, you should not answer police questions about a crime, regardless of your guilt, without representation. 

Being arrested is scary, but Janet Altschuler is here to fight for your rights. If the police suspect you of a crime, our office will make sure you get the best possible defense at every stage of the process. To hire a criminal defense lawyer in Tucson, call (520) 829-4460.

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