If you’ve ever seen the old TV show “Dragnet,” you may recall a detective inevitably saying, “Book ’em, Danno” at some point during every episode. The phrase refers to processing a suspect into the criminal justice system when a police officer has made an arrest. In other words, if a law enforcement agent is booking you, he or she suspects you of a crime, and you are going to spend at least the next half hour, several hours or longer behind bars.
If you’ve never visited a police station, such circumstances can be frightening. You may see and hear things that shock you if there are other situations unfolding at the time. Once the booking process is complete, three things may occur: They might release you after signing a promise to appear in court. A judge might set a bail amount to secure a financial guarantee in addition to the documents you sign. You might stay in jail. Louisiana law guarantees your right to request legal support.
More to know about booking and bail
Just because a police officer has arrested you does not necessarily mean you are guilty of a crime. The booking process is the beginning of adjudication, and the court will determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to obtain a conviction. There are numerous reasons your case may never even make it to trial. The following facts can help you better understand booking and bail, which may help alleviate stress if you understand what’s happening when it happens:
- When an officer books you, the first step usually includes recording your personal identification information, such as birth date and name, and also physical features.
- If you were wearing a watch or jewelry, or carrying personal belongings at the time, police will remove them from your possession and return them to you upon your release, which, if things go your way, may be only a few hours later.
- If the court sees no reason to hold you behind bars, a judge may grant your release through your own recognizance. This means you would sign a promise to appear in court when the time comes, and then you are free to go.
- If the court sets bail, you must pay up before you can go free. As long as you attend your scheduled court proceedings, the court may return your bail money to you at some point. If you fail to show up in court, not only will you lose the money, you will likely go back to jail.
- A bail bondsman is someone who pays bail for a defendant who can’t afford it. If you enter an agreement with a bail bondsman, you will pay him or her a fee, which may be 10 to 20 percent of your bail amount.
It’s always best to take one step at a time if police have placed you under arrest. If prosecutors file criminal charges against you, things may get a lot worse before they get better, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to stay in jail. The more you know about your own rights and how to protect them, the better.