What Happens When You are Arrested

It could happen to anyone and may someday happen to you when you think it’s not even a remote possibility. Most arrests are for minor transgressions and a great percentage are for traffic violations gone astray. You might wander into another lane for a second and find yourself pulled over – and when you mention you take prescription medication, well, it could happen just that easily.

The Arrest

Of course you should always cooperate with law enforcement. Resisting arrest or yelling at the officer isn’t going to win you any points down the line, whereas a peaceful submission might just result in a release on your own recognizance. Arguing or trying to convince an officer that you are innocent is a waste of your time, and his. They’ve heard everything, dozens of times over, and whether you’re innocent or just upset it’s not going to spring you out of the handcuffs or jail.

The Rights to Remain Silent

These rights apply to any person who is arrested, no matter how minor (or how serious) the crime for which you are accused. Whether or not you are guilty, making a verbal or written confession can end up in a lot heavier penalty. If you are being questioned, the best thing to do is to “lawyer up.” Requesting a lawyer isn’t going to be held against you, it’s your right. If you suspect your rights have been violated during your arrest, be sure to discuss it with your attorney.

1) The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution – A part of the Bill of Rights, it protects witnesses from being forced to incriminate themselves. To “plead the Fifth” is to refuse to answer a question because the response could provide self-incriminating evidence of an illegal act punishable by fines, penalties or forfeiture.

2) Miranda Rights – You know you’re getting arrested when you hear the words, “You have the right to remain silent, as anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.” Named after an actual case (Ernesto Miranda v. Arizona in 1966), the defendant’s conviction was overturned because he had signed a written confession to armed bank robbery while in custody, without understanding he had the right of silence.

The Booking Process

Once you reach the jail you will be fingerprinted and your “mug shot” will be taken. Next you’ll be placed in a “holding cell” where you will wait to see a judge or magistrate (a local member of the judiciary having limited jurisdiction).

Outside Contact

You are entitled to make free phone calls (2-3 depending on the jurisdiction), and these should be used wisely. You’ll want to contact a trusted friend or family member and a bail agent who can run interference and obtain your release as soon as possible. If you can afford an attorney, that should be one of your calls.

First Appearance

In 1991 the Supreme Court ruled that holding a suspect beyond 48 hours without judicial review is unconstitutional; it must be shown that there is probable cause to continue to hold you. During this review the bail or bond issues are handled and you will also be assigned a public defender if you cannot afford an attorney.


When you have been charged with a crime, the arraignment is the date on which the actual charges are read and your plea is entered. Your lawyer will be present and explain the process to you and assist with your plea decision. Your case might now be dismissed, or if you plead guilty you may be sentenced; a trial date will be set for a not guilty plea.

Branch Office
  • Open 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. PST