Attorney Adrian M. Madrone has teamed up with Law Professor Julie A. Helling’s acclaimed Internet Podcast Series Justice On Trial. In this episode, Adrian discusses the steps to take if you’re arrested.
A full transcript is provided below for your convenience.
What To Do If You’re Arrested
So you’ve been arrested. What happens next? For most people, getting arrested is one of the most stressful experiences they will ever go through. And as a person goes through the process of getting arrested and booked into jail, it may not always be clear what is going to happen next or when. So here are a few things to know.
First, the most important thing to do while being arrested and processed is: Stay Calm. Regardless of why you have been arrested, or whether you even should have been arrested, at this point in the process, you will gain nothing by losing your cool. While jail staff are trained to handle people who are yelling, screaming, and fighting during booking, they are human and this will be stressful for them. If you keep your composure, staff will make a note of this, and will likely be easier to deal with as things move forward.
Take Things One Step at a Time
Second, be aware that getting arrested starts a process. But everything in that process is not going to happen immediately. Be prepared to take things one step at a time.
The first thing in the process is the initial booking. This is where the jail takes custody of the person from the police officer who made the arrest. This also usually involves getting a photo taken, and collecting basic identifying information (like name and date of birth). It will also involve a short interview by jail staff about any special medical needs or other issues they need to be aware of.
Once the booking is done, jail staff will determine what needs to be done to arrange for your release. With some lower-level offenses, jail staff will have the authority to set a low bail or release a person on their promise to come back to court (known as getting released on personal recognize; or getting PR’d or OR’d). If jail staff determines they can PR you, they will give you paperwork telling you when you need to return to court. Then they will release you. Alternatively, the jail may be able to set an initial bail amount prior to a court hearing. This could be anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a thousand dollars or more.
What is Bail?
But what is bail exactly? Bail is money that you post with the court system as a promise that you will follow the court’s rules (called conditions of release) and return to court when you are instructed. If you follow the rules, you will eventually get your bail money back. If you don’t, the bail you posted will be forfeited to the court, and you will get rearrested.
What if You Can’t Afford Bail?
Also, people who cannot afford to post the full amount of bail themselves may go to a bail bond company for assistance. Most bonding companies will charge 10% of the total bail amount in order to post a bond on your behalf. The money you pay a bail bond company will not get returned to you, as this is the company’s cost of doing business.
What if There is No Bail?
Now, if the jail cannot set your bail or PR you, you will have to wait for a court hearing to take place. In Washington, a court hearing must take place within 72 hours of arrest so a judge can set bail and conditions of release. Every state will have a time limit like this in their state court rules. Because the rules allow for some delay (like 72 hours), what this can mean is that a person arrested on a Friday night who cannot get PR’d or have bail set by the jail will have to wait until the following Monday for their first court hearing. If you are in this situation, there is unfortunately nothing you can do except wait.
Make a Phone Call
If you are in jail waiting for your initial court hearing, the first to try to figure out is how you can get a phone call. Different jails have different phone systems, and they all have their own ways of operating. Check with jail staff or other inmates about what you need to do to get into the phone system.
Call Someone You Trust
Once you get set up for a phone call, be aware that you may have limited time to talk. So you will want to use your phone time wisely. Call someone you know and trust. Tell that person you have been arrested and tell them where you are. Do not use this call to explain all the circumstances around the arrest. Let the person know that you may be able to talk about the situation later, but for now, there are some important things to get done. You will want to talk about getting bail money together or contacting a bail bond company. If you intend to hire your own attorney, the person you call should start doing some research and making calls to arrange this. Finally, if you have anything that you absolutely need (like medication), let the person know to bring this to the jail and deliver it to jail staff.
Do Not Talk About Your Situation with Other Inmates
Finally, if you are booked into jail and you are waiting to appear in court, there will be a great temptation to talk about your situation with other inmates. Sometimes, this may feel like an easy way to pass the time. Other times, it may feel like you are gathering information about the process from the other inmates. However, it is generally not a good idea to talk about your case with other inmates. Wait until you have spoken with an attorney before talking to anyone else (that means people inside OR outside of the jail). Again, do not speak to anyone about your case until you have talked to an attorney.