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Arrest Process In Washington, DC

Being placed in handcuffs or a police car are not necessary circumstances for a person to be considered under arrest. The police officer has to detain the person with the intention of arresting that particular person. For example, if the police officer’s only intention is to approach a person to see if he or she is willing to provide information, and the officer does not have an intention to detain him or her, that person will not be considered under arrest.

Arrest does not necessarily include being placed in handcuffs, as a person can be arrested without this occurring. To qualify as an arrest, a person has to be either actually or constructively detained or seized by the police. Additionally, police have to act with the intention of effectuating an arrest. Finally, to qualify as an arrest, any reasonable person in the same situation would have believed that he or she was under arrest. For example, if police detained a person in order to make an arrest, and the person knows he or she is not free to leave, it does not matter that police have not placed the person in handcuffs. A seizure has taken place and the person is under arrest.

If you have been arrested in the DC area, contact a trusted Washington, DC criminal lawyer today.

Police Detention

Not all detentions by police amount to an arrest. A detention is also referred to as an investigatory stop. It is possible for police to conduct a brief stop of a person to investigate a possible crime or ask questions without the person being under arrest. If a reasonable person under the circumstances of the person who is being questioned would not feel that he is under arrest, then the detention would not amount to an arrest.

An arrest occurs when law enforcement detains a person with the intention of arresting him or her. The act of detaining a person is also referred to as a seizure. Generally speaking, a person is under arrest when he or she is in the custody of police.

What to Expect

When you are arrested, you are first going to be booked and processed at the local district police station. DC doesn’t have a bail system where you put up a certain amount of money in order to be released from custody while your case is pending. If you are arrested on a misdemeanor charge like simple assault or solicitation, you are automatically released from custody after you’ve been booked and you are given a citation to appear in court about three to four weeks out.  If you’ve been arrested for a felony charge you are held in custody until the following afternoon to be in front of a judge for your presentment hearing.  At that hearing, you might be eligible for release depending on what you are charged with.

If you are charged with a dangerous crime or crime of violence then a judge is required to hold you for a three-day period until you can have a detention hearing where your attorney can argue for your release.  If you are not charged with a dangerous crime or crime of violence then you will be released from custody in order to come back for your next hearing unless you are on probation or release in another criminal matter.  In those situations, your judge may, in her discretion, hold you in jail if she believes you are a flight risk or a danger to the community.

Arrest Warrants

An arrest warrant is not always required before a police officer can arrest someone. Generally, in DC, law enforcement can arrest someone if there is probable cause to believe that he or she has committed or is currently committing a felony offense, or if there is probable cause to believe the person is currently committing any offense in the presence of the officer. There are also some enumerated offenses in DC whereby an officer can arrest the person if the officer has probable cause to believe the person has committed or will commit one of these offenses, and may injure another person or dispose or destroy evidence if not immediately arrested. A couple examples of these types of offenses include assault, unlawful entry, destruction of property, theft of property, and shoplifting.

There are also enumerated offenses in which police officers are allowed to arrest someone without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe that the person committed the offense under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as reliable evidence will become unavailable unless said person is arrested. Some of these types of offenses include driving under the influence, aggravated reckless driving, and fleeing from the scene of an accident.

Are You Charged When You Are Arrested?

If you are arrested for a misdemeanor then you won’t be officially charged until your arraignment hearing, which is your first court date after your arrest. At your misdemeanor arraignment the court will inform you of the charge that the US Attorney’s office has filed against you and will enter a plea of not guilty. But if you are arrested on a felony then at your first presentment hearing the prosecutors can file a complaint, which is a notice of the charge that they seek to have filed in your case. The prosecutors will then need to present their case before a grand jury to secure an indictment, which is a finding by the grand jury that there is probable cause to proceed to a trial. Once the grand jury has indicted you, then you will be scheduled for an arraignment.

Contacting a Lawyer After an Arrest

When you have been arrested, you may have the opportunity to contact a family member from the police station (although you are not necessarily entitled to such a phone call).  A friend or family member can secure representation for you before you have even appeared before a judge. If you are arrested for a misdemeanor, you would most likely be released from police custody within hours of your arrest.  At that point, you have the ability to research and hire a lawyer before your first court appearance.

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