After an arrest, a criminal suspect is usually taken into police custody and "booked," or "processed." During booking, a police officer typically takes the criminal suspect's personal information; records information about the alleged crime; performs a record search of the suspect's criminal background; fingerprints, photographs, and searches the suspect; confiscates any personal property carried by the suspect (i.e., keys, purse); and places the suspect in a police station holding cell or local jail.
Note: persons arrested for minor offenses may merely be given a written citation and released, after signing the citation and promising to appear in court at a later date.
For criminal suspects who are placed in jail, the first priority is usually getting out. Except when very serious crimes are charged, a suspect usually can obtain pre-trial release through bail or "own recognizance" release.
Below is a general overview of the booking process of a criminal case.
Booking After an Arrest: What to Expect
The procedures collectively known as "booking" that follow a criminal arrest may vary from one jurisdiction to the next, but generally follow these steps:
1. Vital Information is Recorded
An official will compile the suspect's name, contact information, the nature of the alleged crime (including the code section), and other vital statistics. Much of this information will be taken from the police citation or account of the incident.
2. Mug Shot
Next, the suspect stands (or sits) for a series of photos collectively referred to as the "mug shot." These photos often indicate the suspect's height and include the date and other information tying it to the incident.
3. Clothing and Personal Property Confiscated
After the mugshot, the suspect may be provided with a jail uniform and must relinquish his or her own clothing and personal belongings. These items are held until the suspect is released, unless any contraband (such as a pocket knife or anything considered evidence) is found.
An officer will then take an impression of the suspect's fingerprints, usually all 10 fingers from side to side (the suspect will "roll" his or her fingers in order to record all of the prints). If the crime in question has fingerprint evidence, these will be compared to those of the suspect in order to either find a match or eliminate the suspect. The fingerprints are then kept in a database indefinitely.
The suspect may also be asked to submit a saliva, hair, or other DNA sample.
5. Full-Body Search
This is not a simple search, but requires the removal of all clothing and can be quite invasive. The purpose for the strip search is to make sure there are no weapons or other contraband brought into the holding cell. Police conduct full-body searches even if the crime in question is relatively minor and doesn't involve violence or drugs.
6. Check for Warrants
Police conduct a search through the database for any outstanding warrants the suspect may have. Sometimes police are able to solve other crimes by chance if they pick someone up for an unrelated crime and find a match.
7. Health Check
Personnel will conduct a general health screening to make sure the suspect is neither in need of immediate care nor a threat to the officers or other suspects being held. This could include blood tests and even X-rays.
Finally, the suspect will be placed in a holding cell or other secure facility to await trial or the posting of bail. Prior to placement, the suspect may be asked about gang affiliations or any other factors that may present problems in a confined space.
Learn More About the Booking Process From an Attorney
If you, or someone close to you, is being booked by the police it is a good time to retain an attorney. A lawyer can help negotiate the terms of your release, help you understand the charges against you, and provide guidance on what to do next. Get started today and contact a local criminal defense attorney.