What Happens During Booking?
Hopefully, the experience of booking is one that you’ll never have to personally deal with. However, in the United States, more than ten million arrests are made per year, which means that quite a few people every year become familiar with the process.
Like many things involving the law, it’s best to be prepared ahead of time, so even if you don’t plan on being arrested anytime soon (who does?), it couldn’t hurt to read through our explanation of the process so you’ll have an idea of what to expect if it ever does happen to you.
What is booking?
If you are suspected of a crime, police may arrest you and take you into custody. Being arrested simply means that you are being prevented from leaving police custody; if you ask “am I free to leave?” and the answer is “No”, you are being arrested.
Being taken into custody means that you’ll be transported to a police station, or local jail. “Booking” means the process of having your information taken and recorded in the police station’s system.
This information will include your photograph (colloquially referred to as a mug shot), fingerprints, and personal information like your full name and address. Police can also look through their system for previous arrests or outstanding warrants.
What happens during the process of booking?
During booking, in addition to taking your personal information and recording your fingerprints and photograph, police will take all of your clothes and any personal belongings you have on you. This includes your wallet, phone, and keys. You’ll also be searched for anything considered contraband, like illegal weapons or drugs.
Your personal belongings will be returned to you upon your release, but anything illegal you have on your person will be confiscated and not returned.
What is the search process like?
You’ll probably have some idea of what being searched is like during booking, from movies and TV. This full-body search requires you to remove all of your clothing, and it’s an unpleasant process.
The police are not doing this for the express purpose of embarrassing you, although that is certainly a side effect of the process. The purpose of the body search is to make sure that you aren’t bringing any contraband into the police station or jail, to ensure the safety of the officers and any other suspected criminals who have also been arrested.
However, in Arkansas, a body cavity search will not be conducted anywhere other than the mouth without a search warrant. If such a warrant exists, this search will be conducted by or in the presence of a healthcare professional.
What happens next?
Once your information has been recorded, and the search has been conducted, the police will supply you with a uniform rather than the clothes you came in wearing. Though you have not been convicted of a crime at this point, the police have reasonable suspicion that you may have.
For that reason, the uniform makes you instantly identifiable as a suspected criminal, which means that even if you escape (which, obviously, is highly discouraged), people will certainly notice. You will also face further legal troubles if you attempt to escape.
If you appear to be sick or injured, or are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you may also be examined by a healthcare professional to make sure you’re physically well enough to remain at the police station or jail. If they determine that you are not, you’ll be taken to a hospital– you won’t be permitted to leave.
Finally, once the whole process is complete, you’ll remain incarcerated in the jail– either until you make bail or until your trial.
What do I do if I get arrested?
The police will read you your rights upon arrest. These rights are officially called the Miranda Warning, and they notify you that your words from the point of arrest forward can be used against you in court.
They’ll also let you know that you have the right to seek an attorney, and if you can’t afford one, they will provide one. At this point, it is wise not to say anything until you have had the chance to speak with an attorney– that’s where we come in.
Your experience from there greatly depends on the arresting officer and your own behavior. If you’ve been compliant and polite to the officers, you may be permitted to use your own phone to call an attorney, since most people probably don’t have their attorney’s number memorized. Once you’ve contacted an attorney, it’s highly recommended that you don’t make any further comments until your attorney is present.
It couldn’t hurt to save this number in your phone now: 501-500-9292. We’re here to protect you and your rights.
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