One of the worst parts about getting arrested on suspicion of committing a crime is not knowing what will happen next. While the exact arrest process is slightly different in different cities and jurisdictions, the general process is the same.
Here is what to expect, in Philadelphia.
The arrest is the triggering act that puts into motion a string of other procedures. The arrest, however, can happen in two circumstances:
- At the scene of a suspected crime, when police have gathered probable cause to believe that a crime has occurred, firsthand
- With an arrest warrant, signed by a judge or magistrate and executed by police at a different place and time than the alleged wrongdoing
In Philadelphia, once you have been taken into police custody, you will be brought to one of the police stations in the city. These stations are located in each police district, with the headquarters located at 750 Race Street.
The booking process is where police take basic information about who you are, what you are accused of doing, and preparing for future logistical work. This involves gathering the following information:
- Your name
- Your address
- Your date of birth
- Recording basic physical characteristics
- Taking your photo
- Taking your fingerprints
With this information, the police will run criminal background checks to see if there are outstanding warrants for your arrest and to see if you are a suspect in another crime, including in another state.
The police will also record statements from the arresting officers that outline, in preliminary and basic detail, what you did that led to your arrest. They will also search you and confiscate anything you have on your person – like your wallet, keys, and cell phone – for storage and return on your release.
After the booking process, the next thing to decide is bail. Bail is a refundable payment that you can make to the police and judicial system that aims to assure them that you will show up at future court dates, like your arraignment and a preliminary hearing in cases involving felony charges.
The bail amount is set by the bail commissioner in Philadelphia, who can refer to a predetermined bail schedule or can set a figure based on:
- Your criminal background
- The severity of the crime you are being accused of committing
- Your flight risk
If you cannot make the bail payment, you will have to remain in jail while your case moves through the justice system. If you make bail, you can go on with your life while your case progresses but will forfeit the amount you posted if you miss a court date.
In some cases that are not considered severe, the bail commissioner will release you on your own recognizance – a sworn statement where you promise to be present at future court dates, or risk being arrested, again.