Understanding the Booking Process After An Arrest

After the police arrest the defendant they put him in jail and start the booking process. The jail can be in the police department or at the sheriff’s station. The officials need to keep the suspect locked up because the booking process takes time and require the presence of the detainee. The process may extend if the detention facility was big, the police station is busy, or both like in large county jails.

Usually, the booking process could take an hour. In some cases, it may take a day. Everything is automated, and sometimes it takes 12 hours for the information to be uploaded to the computer’s system. Most experts agree that is best to post the bail once the arrest happens, before transferring the defendant to a bigger jail where things become a little messier!


The short version:

1) Once the respondent is under arrest, he or his friends and family must contact the bail bonds company as soon as possible

2) The bail bonds company initiate the paperwork and gather the necessary information such as the booking number, and the location of the jail.

3) The defendant or his family fill the forms and arrange for the payment.

4) After filling the forms and paying the premium. The bail bonds post the bond, and the defendant is discharged.


9 step booking process

9 Steps of Booking and Processing

The arresting is just the beginning of the booking process. Once the police take the detainee to the police station, they can “process” him. Here’s what happens inside the jail.



1- Entering the inmate’s information into the system:

The first step is putting the defendant name and crime into the system. Sometimes, looking up if he has previous charges. In the past, the police used to write in logs, but now everything is on the computer’s servers.


2- The Taking of the Mug Shot:

After the law enforcement officers record the information about the defendant, they take him for the infamous mug shot. The purpose of the mug shot here is to differentiate between two suspects with the same name. Also, for documenting the physical condition of the defendant at the time of arrest.


3- Retaining the Clothes and Personal Belongings of the Defendant:

In this step, the booking officer collects the personal belongings of the detainee and give them back after the bail posting. The officer might allow the suspect to keep some of his personal belongings like his wristwatch. Yet, some items that might be used as weapons are taken away from the defendant.

Also, the booking officer takes evidence items such as the weapon of crime, the stolen things, or drugs.


4- Saving the Dactylogram of the Defendant:

The next step of the booking process is taking the finger and hand prints of the convicted. The data is then entered into the FBI nationwide database. The “criminal directory” is also accessible by other governmental agencies. Taking the fingerprints help identify the defendant, and checking him up for past crimes.


5- Conducting Body Search:

At the time of the arrest, the police conduct the routine pat-down checkup. In the jail, a more thorough search which may involve a strip search is carried out by the booking officers. It is a standard procedure to prevent hidden weapons or drugs from entering the jail cells.

In today’s laws, the strip search is sanctified even in minor offenses like traffic infractions. Meaning, any objection from the defendant may result in charging him with more crimes such as “the obstruction of justice.”


6- Checking Criminal Record:

The booking officers are going to check the criminal record for past warrants, such as traffic tickets or even murder. In preparation for granting the bail, the police always check for prior offenses. It is more likely that the defendant will need a lawyer at this point if he has a criminal record.


7- Physical Checkup:

In this stage, the booking officers run a health checkup on the convict. Usually, X-ray and blood test to check for infectious disease. If the detainee is infected with a severe illness, he may be locked away from the other inmates or moved to the hospital.


8- Questioning:

The defendant is asked if he has gang affiliations or criminal relationships, to avoid violence and conflict inside the jail with other inmates. The examination determines if the accused would need protective custody or possibly solitary confinement. The questioning isn’t an official interrogation, so it can’t be used in court as a testimony. The officers would need to recite the Miranda warning to the defendant first. The incriminating answers can’t be used in court unless the officers recite the Miranda rights to the respondent.


9- DNA Screening:

Sometimes, the booking officers will take DNA samples for entering them into the national database.


phone calls while in jail

One Phone Call?

Contrary to the popularized belief in the movies, the defendant can make as many calls as necessary. However, this law varies from state to state. The defendant has a right to call his lawyer or his family for that matter. He must be careful because even though what he says cannot be used in court, the police officers are experts at extracting information that they may use to find more evidence. The best course of action is to call the bail bonds company and give them the booking number and the location of the jail. Other than that, the defendant doesn’t need to talk to the booking officers. Of course, unless it is an official interrogation.


The Time of Posting the Bail

As clarified above, the booking process can take from one hour to twelve. It depends on the size of the jail, and how busy it is. The eligibility for bail is usually determined during the booking process. However, the bail is not granted until after the booking process is complete. On the other hand, the bail bonds company can work on posting the bail immediately after the arrest. The police will keep the defendant behind the bars until the bail bonds agency post the bail.