If you were arrested, would you know what to do or what your rights are? Unless you’ve been arrested before, the unknown can be very scary. If you are arrested, you will be taken by a police officer to the police station, a jail or other detention facility. The police will provide a prosecutor with information about your arrest, and the prosecutor will determine whether or not to file any charges against you. If the prosecutor files charges against you, a hearing before a magistrate or court official is set, and you will be informed of your rights and the charges filed against you.
The Bonding Process
During the hearing, it will be determined whether or not you will be eligible to post a bond. The magistrate has a lot of discretion in this area and takes several things into consideration when making the decision, including your risk of flight, whether you pose a risk to others, and your behavior during the hearing. If you are granted a bond, a family member or friend should contact a bail bondsman to secure your pretrial release. If you cannot make a bond, then you will remain in jail to await your trial. When you are taken into custody, you have the right to contact an attorney, and if you cannot afford one, you may request that the court appoint one for you. If you are not a US citizen, then the INS may place a hold on you, which will prevent your pretrial release even it you were able to make a bond.
When a case goes to trial there are three possible phases to the trial, which include voir dire (jury selection), presentation of evidence where guilt or innocence is determined, and the punishment phase if the defendant is found guilty. Misdemeanor cases must have 6 jurors to hear the evidence presented and felony cases must have 12, and the jurors must come to a unanimous decision concerning a guilty or innocent verdict. If all jurors in the pool do not reach the same decision, the judge may declare a mistrial and the case may be retried.
Courtroom Dress and Behavior
If your case goes to trial, you want to make the best impression possible, so it’s wise to dress as though you are going to church or on a job interview. Always dress conservatively and be clean and well-groomed. Women should wear clothing that is not low-cut, too short or too tight, and the jewelry and makeup should be understated. Men should dress in a shirt and long slacks, but adding a coat and tie are preferable. No one should appear in court with T-shirts, shorts, flip flops, sandals or hats.
Ask family members not to bring small children into the courtroom, because they can be a distraction. If you are sentenced to jail time and you are taken away, it can be traumatic for a child to witness. Be respectful and use common sense and good judgement in the courtroom.