The arrest is only the first step in a lengthy criminal justice process. After you get arrested, many different things happen in the prosecutor’s attempt to resolve the criminal case. Understanding the basic steps of a criminal case after an arrest can help ease your mind as a defendant. It can also enable you to better protect your legal rights.
At the time of your arrest, the arresting police officer will most likely place you in handcuffs and put you in the back of the police car. During this process, the officer legally must read you your Miranda rights. The failure to do so is a violation of your civil rights and could make anything you say to the police officer inadmissible as evidence at trial.
If you are read your Miranda rights, listen to them carefully and take them to heart. They offer you ways to protect yourself from self-incrimination, such as the right to remain silent until you have an attorney present. You are not obligated to answer any questions asked by a police officer other than your name. Politely explain that you will only answer questions after you have contacted your Queen Creek criminal defense attorney. Do not resist arrest.
The arresting officer will escort you to the local police station for booking. This part of the process is where the police will ask you for your basic information, collect your fingerprints and take your mugshots. The police will also search you for any weapons or contraband. Then, they will take any personal belongings you have on you and take an inventory for you to sign. You will get your belongings back when you leave the facility.
You may be forced to wait in a holding cell while a decision is made by the prosecutor whether or not to file criminal charges against you. This may last several hours or require you to stay in a cell overnight. If you are stuck in a holding cell for an unreasonable period of time (usually more than one night) without being booked, your attorney can obtain a writ of habeas corpus by a judge to determine if you are being unlawfully held.
After you are booked, the police station must give you one phone call. Use your call wisely. Call a trusted friend or family member and explain what happened. Tell them where you are and ask them to contact a criminal defense attorney in Phoenix right away. Otherwise, you can use your phone call to contact an attorney yourself for immediate legal assistance.
A speedy trial means the government prosecutor in your county must bring any criminal charges against you in a prompt and timely manner – typically within 48 to 72 hours after your arrest. Although the prosecutor can later alter the crime(s) charged after learning more about the incident, the prosecutor must file the initial charges without delay.
Next, you will make a first appearance before a judge. This is where the judge may announce your bail, if applicable. If you qualify for bail, you or a family member can pay the required amount so that you can wait for your arraignment hearing from the comfort of your own home rather than a holding cell. The next time you will see a judge is the arraignment hearing, where you will hear the charges entered against you and enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest.
Finally, your case will either settle with a plea deal, be dismissed by the courts, or go before a judge and jury in a criminal trial. It is critical to hire a defense attorney to assist you with the legal process from the very beginning, as an attorney will have the knowledge and resources to build the strongest possible defense on your behalf. An attorney can represent you after an arrest to fight for a positive case result.