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What happens during and after an arrest?

If you have never been arrested, it's understandable not to have a clear idea of what transpires after being detained by the police. While it's never going to be a pleasant experience, knowing what to expect may remove some of the fear and uncertainty.

While the circumstances of every arrest are unique, below is the basic chronology of the arrest process.

Being detained versus being arrested

The police can stop individuals for many different reasons, with some far more legitimate than others. During the interval between being detained by police and being arrested, you can ask the officer, "Am I free to go?" If he or she says that you are, you should leave quickly and quietly. At this point, while you are not under arrest, the officer has the right to "pat you down" to check for weapons. They do not need your consent for this.

If you are indeed put under arrest, the police will take you into their custody. At point, they should read you your Miranda rights. You've doubtlessly heard suspects being Mirandized countless times on TV, but pay attention when your rights are being read. It's important information.

After the arrest

Police can perform a full search of your person, possessions and vehicle once they arrest you if they suspect you're carrying weapons, evidence or contraband.

Once you get to the jail, you will be forced to surrender your personal property, including cellphones. Some police officers may attempt to get you to use your fingerprint to access your phone. This is a very murky area. You may ultimately get evidence tossed for this, but it's a good practice to instead use a four- or five-digit code to gain access to the contents of your cellphone, as you can't be forced to reveal it.

During booking, you will be fingerprinted and a mug shot will be taken. Most jails will insist that you be strip-searched and put in a jail uniform.

Under some circumstances, the police can detain you for hours or even a couple days without charging you while they assemble their evidence against you. Your defense attorney can get a writ of habeas corpus, which means that the police will have to bring you into court to justify their holding you without charging you. At this point, you may be allowed to go on your way.

Source: FindLaw, "Chronology: The Arrest Process," accessed May 04, 2018

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