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What is the Arrest Process in Washington State?

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An arrest can be a stressful and emotional process. You may feel scared, angry, or worried about your future. Understanding what happens during an arrest and the rights you hold during the arrest process can help reduce the likelihood of self-incrimination and allow you to seek the legal assistance you need.

What Happens When You’re Arrested?

When the police come to arrest you, they will place you into custody for a certain period of time. In many cases, the officer may take you to the local police station, and in others, the officer will arrest, cite, and release you at the scene with an order for a court date. The latter option only occurs in misdemeanor cases.

If the officer takes you to the station, the police will book you. This means that the police will enter your information into the system, take your photograph, and collect your fingerprints. In some instances, the officers may also need to take DNA or handwriting samples. After this process, you may use the phone to contact your attorney.

After the booking process, the police will send your case to the prosecutor’s office, who will then determine whether or not to file charges against you. You have the right to a speedy trial, but you may need to stay in jail after your arrest and before the trial begins.

You may have the option to post bail, which means you will pay money to the court to ensure your future appearances in exchange for leaving jail prior to trial. The court will refund the bail to you if you come to court, or keep the money and issue an arrest warrant if you do not.

Your Rights During an Arrest

You have certain rights during the arrest process to protect yourself from self-incrimination. These rights are thanks to the landmark Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona and the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which states you have the right to due process of the law and the prosecution cannot compel you to be a witness against yourself.

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • You have the right to refuse to answer questions from law enforcement.
  • You have the right to speak to an attorney before speaking to the police.
  • You have the right to have an attorney present during any police interrogation.
  • You have the right to receive a court-appointed attorney if you cannot afford one.
  • If you begin to answer questions, you have the right to stop answering these questions at any time until your lawyer is present.
  • You have the right to know that the prosecution can use anything you say during your arrest against you.

Law enforcement officers must read these rights, known as your Miranda rights, when you are in police custody and under interrogation. If the police do not read you your rights, speak to your defense attorney as soon as possible.

What to Do After an Arrest in Washington

If police officers place you under arrest, it is important to stay silent throughout the entire process. Do not answer any questions or argue with the officers. Comply with their orders and accompany the officers to the station, if necessary. Repeat that you want to speak with your attorney and do not stop asking for one until the officers allow you to use a telephone.

Your lawyer will come to the station and walk through your case with you, and will accompany you during all interrogations and guide you through the post-arrest process. If you have not done so already, contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your charges.

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