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What Happens After an Arrest?

Although arrests are common events in the United States, when it happens to you, it can certainly be a frightening and traumatic experience. Criminal defense attorney Rahul Parikh recommends that you remember to protect your rights even when the arrest is taking place. Always follow the instructions issued by the police but stay calm and do not agree to discuss the situation without legal representation by your side. Be respectful and courteous, and keep your answers short without speculating on what happened. Remember that anything you say can and will be used against you and the last thing you want is to give the authorities more ammunition against you.

You Will Be Put in Custody After Your Arrest

If there is an arrest warrant for you and you are not already in custody, the police will search for you and take you into custody once you have been located. If you have information that an arrest warrant has been issued in your name, you can turn yourself in. If the issue is a less serious offense, you may receive a citation to appear in court instead of being arrested.

In cases where there is no arrest warrant, you may still be arrested if the police respond to the scene of a crime and witness your presence there, giving law enforcement a reason to believe that you have violated the law.

What happens when you are arrested?

As you are being taken into custody, you should be informed that:

  • You have the right to remain silent
  • Anything you say may be held against you in a court of law
  • You have the right to talk to an attorney before and during questioning and to have an attorney appointed to represent you if you cannot afford one

The police must follow all legal procedures during and after your arrest process. The arrest happens when you are taken into custody and are no longer free to walk away.

Being Searched and Having Your Belongings Inventoried

As your arrest is happening, the police will first pat you down to make sure you are not carrying a concealed weapon. Then, they will conduct a full search of your person and the surrounding area to confirm that there are no other weapons, contraband, stolen items, or any other evidence. If you are in or near your vehicle, it may be searched as well if the police take possession of it.

Any personal property you have on you, such as a watch or money, will be taken and secured, and an inventory will be written down, which you will be asked to sign. Sign only after confirming the contents of the inventory and making sure it contains nothing else.

Being Booked

During booking, you will be asked to give the authorities your basic information, such as your date of birth and address. Your fingerprints will be taken, and you will be photographed. Cooperate with the police in these tasks and also if you are asked to stand in a line-up. If you are asked to provide a writing sample, ask to speak with your attorney before doing so.

Once your information has been collected, it will be passed on to the prosecutor’s office, where they will decide which charges, if any, should be filed. These charges can be changed, dropped, or supplemented as further evidence is obtained. You have a right to a speedy trial, which means that the prosecutor must file the charges within 72 hours.


You can either be present in court or through a video camera. The charges that have been filed against you will be read in court, and you will be asked whether you are pleading guilty, not guilty, or no contest. By not entering a plea, you allow the judge to enter a not-guilty plea on your behalf.

If you had been in custody, you might be able to leave after posting bail and before the trial. By paying money to the court, you commit to return and appear in court in the future. If you show up on the appointed date, the money is returned to you, otherwise, a warrant for your arrest will be issued. Always follow your attorney’s advice, since you have a better chance of not incriminating yourself and getting out of the justice system as soon as possible.

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