Booking and Bail Process

Following arrest, suspects are taken to the police station in the jurisdiction of their arrest.  Here, suspects will undergo the booking process, appear for arraignment, and attempt to bail themselves out of jail pending the resolution of their case.  Typically, the booking process is the same in most jurisdictions, and the following article explains the overall process for persons under arrest.  It is important to note, however, that adults only undergo this process.  There is an entirely different procedure for processing and releasing juvenile suspects.

How Booking Works

Defendants arrested for a crime must be booked following their arrest and prior to posting bail.  During the booking process, an official arrest record is made.  This process will record a number of things about a defendant, including:

  • Recording defendant’s name and the arrest charges they face
  • Making photo records of the defendants, or taking their mug shot
  • Removal of all personal items from suspect, which will be returned upon release
  • Recording of suspects fingerprints
  • Submission to a body search ranging from a frisk pat down to a strip search
  • Assess whether or not a defendant has outstanding warrants in other jurisdictions
  • Screening of arrestees for contagious diseases such as tuberculosis or identifying those that are HIV positive or with AIDS

Arrestees are not entitled to an attorney during the booking process, and any evidence or statement they make during the booking process can be used against them later.  The courts will appoint an attorney for all critical legal proceedings, but per the court’s ruling, the standard booking procedure is not a critical legal proceeding.  Additionally, most states allow suspects to make one or more local phone calls following the completion of the booking process.

How to Arrange Bail

Bail is some form of cash or collateral held in escrow by the courts in lieu of allowing a defendant to remain free until the resolution of their criminal case.  Acceptable mediums of bail include cash, property at the value of the cash value of the bond, and collateral provided by friends or family members.  In addition, defendants can purchase a bail bond for usually a ten percent non-refundable premium to secure their release.  Defendants can arrange their own bail without the assistance of a lawyer.

The amount of the bail arrangement depends on the crimes one is suspected of committing.  The amounts vary by jurisdiction, as well as on a case-by-case basis based on the severity of the crime.  Typically, defendant’s first court appearance, either a bail hearing or an arraignment, is when a bail amount is determined.  Defendants can negotiate the terms of the bail arrangement with a judge themselves or via their attorney.  Sometimes, bail arrangements come with restrictions on movement, activities, or mandatory rehabilitation.  If these conditions are violated, your bail may be revoked. 

If you are out on bail, but do not appear for a scheduled court appearance, you will face criminal and economic penalties.  First, your bail amount will be confiscated, and you probably will be in contempt of court and now a fugitive from justice.  This will not help your defense in any manner possible.

The Own Recognizance Release

In some instances, arrestees may be released on their own recognizance.  This means that a suspect has signed a written document promising to appear before the courts at scheduled times and to abide by the conditions of their release.  Many times, the charges that you can be released on your own recognizance are less severe, and individuals without a criminal past or inclination to flee are given preference in being released on their own recognizance.  Additionally, jail overcrowding has allowed some defendants to be released on their own recognizance more frequently than in the past.  Defendants or their attorney can request release on own recognizance during the arraignment of bail hearing, and in turn, will want to provide enough supporting evidence to convince a judge that this is a feasible option for the defendant.

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