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Locked Up and Locked Out

10 Things to Know About What Happens AFTER Arrest

We often speak about the importance of “Know Your Rights” when interacting with law enforcement but no matter how dedicated one can be in invoking their rights, an arrest often follows. Law Enforcement officers have a pretty low bar for arresting someone and there is very little incentive for them not to arrest someone they come across with the possible exception of the follow up paperwork. A recent rash of community member arrests these past months for what are essentially “poverty crimes” have raised a lot of questions about the process of being arrested. Although situations and circumstances vary widely from state to state, county to county and city to city, there is a fairly widely accepted process within the criminal justice system that can track an individual from arrest through booking and all of their future court appearances.

We are going to break down the top 10 most common practices of the arrest, booking and court appearance processes because one of the worst parts about criminal justice intervention is the unknown.

1 - CLICK! The Handcuffs are On!

The first thing that happens during an arrest is very often the ride to jail. There are a lot of ways this can happen. Sometimes an arresting officer will take a person to jail in the back of their squad car. Sometimes people are “held” at the location of their arrest and they will wait around for a “paddy wagon” a term loosely derived from historical references to Irish Americans who overindulged in adult beverages - which is a van or vehicle that solely drives around and collects people from arrest locations. It is also referred to as patrol wagon, police van, police wagon, black-maria, cruiser, panda-car, prowl-car, squad-car and wagon. This process can take hours as the van takes a leisurely ride around collecting new arrestees and will eventually take everyone to “intake” or “booking”.

PRO-TIP - It is important to know that no status will be available on new arrests during the arrest and booking process and it can take anywhere from 4-8 hours. In between all of the steps during the booking process, prisoners will be held in a communal room together or adjacent holding cells. Depending on availability of pay phones, prisoners may be able to make calls to friends, family, bondmen or attorneys while in the booking area.

2 - Booking - AKA “Intake”

Once a detainee has arrived at the jail facility, they will be “booked” into jail by going through an “intake process”. Standardized questions like name, address, employment, social security number and birthdate will be documented by a deputy. Their possessions - such as purses, backpacks, shoelaces and belts - will be taken from them or from the arresting officer/agency. Purses, pockets and backpacks will be searched and contents - including money and cell phones - listed on a form called “property”. This “property” will be held by the jail until the detainee is released or until someone the detainee designates to pick it up from the jail. New prisoners will receive a “receipt” documenting their property and they should look it over carefully before signing and attesting to its accuracy. Any cash that is taken from new prisoners will be deposited in their “inmate account” and returned to them in the form of a check once released.

3 - Property - AKA “What happens to your stuff”

Property in jail is a messy issue at best. Cash, jewelry and medication - even identification documents - can mysteriously “disappear”. Cell phones that are not turned off and end up being dead once a prisoner is released. If there is anyone you can hand off your personal property to before being taken to jail - and can trust that you will get it back - don’t miss the opportunity to not lose your cash, jewelry, medication or other valuables to the county jail. This can also reduce the chance that you might have something illegal in your possession - like a joint you forgot was stuffed into the bottom of your wallet, or an empty baggy that might contain some “residue”. This can result in an additional charge of “bringing contraband into a secure facility” and you will be truly fucked.

People who arrive at jail with cash will have it deposited into their “commissary” account, and - if they stay long enough - will eventually be able to use it to buy snacks and hygiene items. Some jails charge a daily fee for the people they have staying there and this daily fee will come out of whatever was deposited into your account. This includes any funds deposited into their prisoner account from friends and family. It can take up to two weeks to receive commissary orders so if you are going to be released quickly, having friends or family deposit money into these prisoner accounts is pretty useless.

4 - Discrimination AKA “Classification”

New detainees will be photographed and fingerprinted and sent to “classification”. It's important to know that “classification” (AKA discrimintion) is taking place the entire time someone is going through the booking process and literally everything is being noted by the jail staff.\

The classification process will determine what “pod” or communal space the detainee will be placed in once booking is completed and if they are not going to be bonded out. These notations indicate to corrections staff that a prisoner needs increased attention for medical issues, safety concerns or if the prisoner poses a danger to other prisoners or jail staff or if other prisoners pose a danger to the new prisoner. Family and friends - particularly of trans prisoners - need to be aware that they may be “segregated” from communal pods and it is very likely that they will not have access to pay phones. The “classification” process is extremely discriminatory and stigmatizing.

5 - Medical

One of the steps that will happen during the booking process is to to see the jail “nurse”, who - trust us on this one - is not actually interested in your well being and they are not going to prioritize your safety and health.

6 - Speaking to a Lawyer

Contrary to any episode of Law & Order, lawyers do not hang around the jail waiting to see if they can represent someone being questioned or booked for arrest. In fact, the first time you see a lawyer might be at your first appearance before the judge the next morning. There will be a public defender at the arraignment and you might get to spend 3-5 minutes speaking to them before the judge hears your case. Generally, if you are booked into jail before midnight, you will be in first appearance court at 8:30am. If you are booked into jail after midnight, you will be in first appearance court at 1:30pm or the following morning at 8:30am.

7 - Bond and Bail

The amount of bail usually depends on the seriousness of the crime but other factors such as a defendant's past criminal record, whether a defendant is employed, and whether a defendant has close ties to relatives and the community are taken into consideration as well. Bond amounts in most areas are predetermined and are automatically posted and available publicly once the new prisoner completes the booking process. In most cases, the arresting officer will know what the predetermined bond amount is so a newly arrested person can let theout with the bondsman and fail to show up for court, he can set a Bounty Hunter out to look for you and once you have a failure to appear on your record, no one will ever again write a bond for you. Although it is rare, a bondsman can ask for 100% of cash required to secure a bond.

For example, if the person being arrested is currently on probation, they may initially show a bond amount on the new charge and if they are NOT immediately charged with a violation of probation (VOP) at the time of their arrest, they might be able to bond out of jail as long as it is before their first appearance before a judge - typically the following morning. However, it is important to know that simply being arrested on a new charge is almost always a violation of probation and there is almost never a bond for a violation of probation. In most cases, once the first appearance judge sees that the newly arrested person is on probation, the bond on the new charge will either be revoked or a violation charge will be included and the newly arrested person will no longer be eligible to be bonded out.

Another excellent example of not having a bond at booking is if you are picked up on an out of state or out of county warrant. Particularly for out of state prisoners, this process can really create a lot of havoc. It's difficult to find a bondsman for an out of state bond and some counties have a list of “pre-approved” bond agents they will allow to be used in posting bond.

A bond for a prostitution related charge can be anywhere from $250 - $1500. You can post a cash bond or you can call a bail bondsman and he will bond you out for 10 to 15% of the requested bail.

PRO-TIP - It is very difficult to find a bondsman that will write a bond on a prostitution charge.

A bondsman will often ask you to “collateralize the bond”. This means that you will provide him with something equal to the amount of your bond in addition to the 10 or 15% of the bail amount that is set. This is often the most difficult part of getting a bond. Some of the things that you can use to collateralize the bond is jewelry, a car, a house, a piece of equipment or anything of value that the bondsman can either hold the title to or physically take possession of. Sometimes a bondsman will accept the signature of another person.

PRO-TIP - Unfortunately - and this is most definitely worth noting - bondsmen frequently take advantage of people that they have bonded out and ask them for sexual favors or harass and intimidate them.

8 - Out of Area Warrants

Let's say you get pulled over for having a taillight out in a neighboring county, or you are stopped for speeding in a different state and you have a warrant for your arrest. The officer who pulled you over will have dispatch contact the county where the warrant is out of and ask them if they want to arrest you. This is pretty much a rubber stamp process and you will most likely be arrested and taken to the county jail where you were pulled over and arrested. There might already be a predetermined bond set for your arrest warrant and you can start looking to bond out as soon as you get the chance.

PRO-TIP - If the warrant is for a violation of probation (VOP) - there will not be a bond.

If there is no bond, the first appearance judge might set a bond, but they will most likely schedule an “extradition hearing” which is where you can “waive your right to be extradited” to the county holding the warrant or you can state that you are going to fight the extradition. This is pretty useless, in our opinion, and we have rarely seen these legal maneuvers succeed within the United States. This “waiver of extradition hearing” will usually be scheduled within the next 7 days. Once you sign the waiver and agree to be extradited, the judge will set a time period for the county or state that is holding the warrant to come and get you.

PRO-TIP - It is 100% the responsibility of the county or state holding the warrant to come and pick you up!

If they don’t come and get you, the judge will either let you go or set a bond. There is a 50/50 chance they will come and get you and there is also a possibility they will request an extension of the hold. The important thing to remember is that signing this waiver of extradition “sets a clock” on your stay in jail, so get that clock started as quickly as possible.

Once you get back to the county or state where the warrant is from, the booking and intake process starts all over again.

The tricky thing about out of state warrants is that the county jail that is holding you has literally zero interest in your situation. The judges, public defenders and state attorneys have no interest in your case. Your out-of-county warrant is doing nothing more than clogging up their already overburdened system. Keep this in mind before hiring a private attorney in the arresting county because this is probably one of the few situations where “the system” can’t wait to get rid of you.

9 - Prescription Medication

All county jails have a fairly well stocked pharmacy of basic (cheap) prescription medications for things like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, allergies, infections and “mental illness”, but they are in no hurry to get these vital medications to you, and this can be very stressful. And quite honestly, from our perspective, it's cruel.

During the booking and classification process, you will be able to list your prescription medications and they will - at some point - verify you have an active prescription written by a “real” doctor and then they will eventually give you some generic version of that prescription. If you take an over the counter medication or supplement, they will NOT give it to you. If you take hormones that are NOT a prescription from a licensed physician, you will NOT get them.

PRO-TIP - If you are a family or friend of someone who has been arrested, you can actually take their prescription medication and a printout from the pharmacy directly to the jail and insist on speaking to a nurse. They will take the medication (in most cases) and your presence alone demonstrates that someone is advocating for them and could possibly escalate medical attention. This is no guarantee that they will actually get the medication.

10 - Suicide Watch and/or “Segregation”

We get it! You are terrified for your family member or friend and you know that they have experienced violence or a mental health crisis and you are legitimately concerned for their safety. Or maybe they are trans…or a person of color…or a survivor of sexual assault, exploitation or maybe they said something to the effect of killing themselves…

The temptation to alert the jail that someone needs to be held separately from all the other people being arrested, put on suicide watch or held in solitary in overwhelming. But they are not necessarily “safer” if they are in isolation, on suicide watch or segregated from the rest of the jail population.

Segregation, isolation, “mental health hold” and “suicide watch” in jail means they are not going to be able to call anyone! They might be denied visitors or video calls - even from an attorney - and their first court appearance may be delayed.

There are no phones or books in these segregated spaces. They may be placed with other new prisoners that are experiencing a mental health crisis as well and this may put them in more danger. Corrections officers and jail staff are supposed to pay closer attention to people who are held under special circumstances but that doesn’t mean that it's the “right kind” of attention. The important thing to remember is that if you bond there is no guarantee the jail staff will do the appropriate thing if something untoward does occur.

We think the best quote we have ever gotten was from a recently booked member after their friend had - with every good intention - called the jail and asked to have a psychiatric hold put on him…”I know you meant well, but the next time you get an idea like that, I want to to write it down on a piece of paper and then put that piece of paper in the trash!”

PRO-TIP - Talk about this with your friends and family so you will know what steps they would want you to take if they were arrested and reaffirm these discussions regularly and get consent or instruction from your incarcerated friend or family member before acting on their behalf.

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