Understanding Your Arrest
No one ever plans to be arrested and taken into custody for a criminal offense. However, it could happen to you, or to someone close to you, at any time. If you do find yourself in custody, your first concern will likely be getting released from custody. In your mind, preparing your defense or straightening out the reason for your arrest will probably take second seat to getting out of jail. Yet, understanding how you ended up under arrest as well as having a basic comprehension of the California bail system are crucial if you suddenly find yourself behind bars.
Warrants and Warrantless Arrests
If you have been through the criminal justice system before, you likely have a fairly good idea of how you ended up in jail. However, for someone who has never been arrested before, the first question they often have is “How did this happen?” There are a number of ways you can end up being placed under arrest. Sometimes an arrest is based on the issuance of a warrant while other times an arrest occurs without a warrant. The most common reasons for an arrest include:
- Arrest warrant – An arrest warrant is a warrant issued by a judge or magistrate. As the police investigate a crime they are ultimately looking for a suspect. When they are convinced they have enough evidence to create probable cause that someone committed the crime a police officer will bring that evidence to the prosecuting attorney. If the prosecuting attorney agrees, an affidavit will be prepared that explains why there is probable cause to arrest the suspect. If the judge agrees, an arrest warrant will be issued.
- Bench warrant – A bench warrant is also issued by a judge or magistrate. Unlike an arrest warrant, a bench warrant is not based on a probable cause affidavit. Instead, a bench warrant is issued on a judge’s or magistrate’s own motion and can relate to a civil or criminal case. The most common reason for a judge to issue a bench warrant is failure to appear in court as scheduled. A bench warrant can be issued for a witness who was subpoenaed or even for a juror who failed to answer a summons.
- VOP warrant – If you violate the conditions of your probation or parole, your probation or parole officer will likely file a notice of violation with the court. The judge will then issue a violation of probation warrant or violation of parole warrant for your arrest based on the allegations found in the notice of violation.
- Warrantless arrest – A law enforcement officer is not required to have a warrant to make an arrest. In fact, most arrests are warrantless arrests. If the police are called to the scene of a crime or disturbance and they believe a crime has, in fact, been committed they will make an arrest if the suspect can be located.
How Is a Warrant Served?
Depending on the size of the law enforcement agency, and the resources available, they may have a “warrant team” that is charged with doing nothing but locating people with active warrants. Smaller agencies often designate a day or two a month where they focus on looking for people who have active warrants. Known as “warrant sweeps”, such measures often result in people being arrested under very embarrassing circumstances. Keep in mind that once a warrant has been issued, regardless of the type or reason for the warrant, the police are required to arrest you whenever and wherever you are located. This may result in you being arrested at work in front of co-workers, at home in front of your family, or in public as you are driving down the street during a random traffic stop.
If you are aware that you have an outstanding warrant, do not ignore the situation. A warrant for your arrest will not expire and will not simply disappear. Moreover, the longer you wait the worse it looks to a judge when you are finally arrested. Contact an experienced California criminal defense attorney right away to discuss your options. Your attorney may be able to negotiate your surrender or, at the very least, be prepared to argue for a reduction in your bond amount immediately after your arrest.
How Much Will My Bond Be?
The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that “excessive bail shall not be required.” This means that for all but the most serious offenses (such as murder or treason) or sometimes for a probation violation, bond (also referred to as “bail”) will be set, allowing you to be released from custody while your case is pending. For warrants, a bond amount is generally set when a warrant is issued. If you are arrested pursuant to a warrant, the previously set bond amount will be used. If you are arrested without a warrant, bond is typically set when you arrive at the jail. There are three main factors used to determine what amount to set bail at:
- Risk of flight – Your past history of appearing, or failing to appear, for court will be considered as will your ties to the community.
- Risk to the community – Previous convictions will be considered as will any current threats to an alleged victim or to the public at large.
- Current charges – The severity of the current charges will be considered, including the penalties you are facing if convicted as well as the apparent strength of the evidence against you.
In the state of California, each county has a “bail schedule” that is used when determining bail. The bail schedule provides a suggested bail amount based on the charges against you. Frequently, the initial bail amount is set too high for an arrestee to pay. In this case, you will need to consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney to arrange for a bond review hearing. A judge can deviate from the amount indicated on the bail schedule, however, a downward departure usually only occurs after a bond review hearing where evidence is presented by your attorney that convinces the judge a lower bail amount is warranted. Unless the bail amount is extremely low, it is likely going to be worth your time and money to have an attorney try and get the bail amount reduced.
Regardless of the reason why, if you wind up behind bars, or you have a loved one who has been arrested, contact an experienced California criminal defense attorney right away. For immediate legal help, call San Diego criminal defense attorney Domenic J. Lombardo at (619) 232-5122 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.