·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Civil Rights

What to Expect if You Get Arrested

— February 10, 2021

You must be familiar with your rights so that you can dispute malpractices done by the police in court.

Crime in the U.S. has been on a steady decline since 1993. Comparing data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), researchers at the Pew Research Center found that violent and property crimes had fallen by 49% and 55% (FBI data) and 74% and 71% (BJS data), respectively. Experts attribute the decline to dozens of factors, including harsher punishments, an aging population, and a more educated generation.

Good news, right?

Regardless, arrests are still being made by the millions. In 2019, law enforcement made more than 10 million arrests for offenses ranging from driving under the influence (DUI) to murder. Granted, it’s at an all-time low since 1980, but that’s still 1 in 32 Americans. By comparison, you’re more likely to get involved in a DUI road mishap, which is 2 out of 3. 

Arrests can differ depending on the offense (i.e., on the spot or via arrest warrant) but share many similarities. Police follow strict rules when making arrests, lest the arrest is rendered unlawful due to technicalities. If any of the following procedures seem to be missing when you’re being arrested (or witnessing an arrest), you might have a strong case to dispute it in court.

  1. The Miranda Rights

Police can’t make arrests without reading the Miranda rights. It’s so well-known that crime shows like CSI make them a part of any scene involving apprehension. As this article explains, the rights have been an immutable part of law enforcement since the story behind it made headlines.

In 1963, police arrested Ernesto Miranda on suspicions of sexually assaulting a teenager. Her family managed to identify the car Miranda used in the crime, but the woman couldn’t identify Miranda as her attacker during the lineup. After two hours of questioning by detectives, Miranda confessed to the crime, later sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Three years later, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial. Citing the Fifth Amendment, its decision stressed that no one must be compelled to testify or be a witness against themselves. This is called self-incrimination.

In 1968, the Miranda Rights were finalized and put into practice. Police may have various versions, but the rights should be along the lines of these six statements:

  1. “You have the right to remain silent.”
  2. “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
  3. “You have the right to an attorney.”
  4. “If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”
  5. “Do you understand the rights I have just read to you?”
  6. “With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

The rights can only be read when an individual is in police custody and under interrogation.

  1. Frisking and Booking

Police may perform a search of your body or property to see if you have a deadly weapon on hand. A full-blown search will require more paperwork, which most likely will come later. Your money, car, and other personal effects may also be seized, but police must take inventory of these things. They must show you the inventory after for your signature.

Image via PxHere/Inside Higher Ed. Listed as public domain on PxHere.

In most cases, searches shouldn’t come before any apprehension because they’re prone to misuse. In 2018, Milwaukee had to pay a settlement of over $3 million to victims of stop-and-frisk done by police without probable cause. The plaintiff’s argument stated that such practices were racially-motivated, targeting the city’s African American and Latino population.

Booking comes afterward, where police record your personal information, including mugshot and fingerprints. Police may perform a more exhaustive (and invasive) search to check for weapons or contraband missed by frisking. If booking can’t be done within a period after the arrest, an attorney may ask for a writ of habeas corpus, which police must bring to court as proof of lawful detainment.

  1. Behind Bars or Posting Bail

Contrary to popular belief, an arrested individual isn’t always thrown behind bars after his arrest. Detention is more likely for graver crimes such as murder and homicide, but police consider other factors such as existing criminal records and risk to public safety. For less severe cases, individuals can post bail or arrange for an own recognizance release.

Posting bail involves paying a certain sum to be temporarily free, granted that you make an effort to appear on your court hearing. If you appear, you get your bail money back; otherwise, the court keeps the money and issues an arrest warrant against you. An own recognizance release works the same way but for individuals who can’t afford to post bail. 


As a citizen of the United States of America, you are protected with legal rights even when you’re being arrested. You must be familiar with your rights so that you can dispute malpractices done by the police in court.

Join the conversation!