Monday, May 26, 2014

Getting Arrested in Kent County: What to Expect

Most people have seen the arrest procedure on television or in movies, but are unaware of what happens in real life or why the process is designed as it is. 

People get arrested every day, day and night in Kent County. For the policemen, county processors, lawyers, and bail bondsmen, this is routine. For everyone else, we can hope it is not. Yesterday, Sunday, May 25, 2014, 45 people were booked in Kent County. Friday 64 people were booked, and on Wednesday, May 14, the day of the last full moon, it was 73 people. When I interviewed Lucas Spoor of Lucas Bail Bonds about the arrest process here in West Michigan, he said the full moon is always a very busy time for bail bondsmen

While policemen can, of course, arrest people if they witness them committing crimes, many times arrests are made after a prosecutor issues an arrest warrant, and for that, the police must have probable cause. Once they have made an arrest and the person is handcuffed, they transport him to the police station to be booked. If the police question a person about a crime that has occurred, they must advise him of his rights - recite the famous Miranda rights - before any interrogation can begin. 

At the police station, you will have to give your identifying information, and you will be fingerprinted and photographed. After being booked, you will be held until your arraignment before a judge. During your arraignment, you will be informed about the crime you are being charged with. The judge will determine whether there was probable cause for your arrest and what bail will be assigned, if any. If the crime you are accused of is a misdemeanor, you will plead either innocent or guilty at the arraignment, with sentencing immediately following a guilty plea. You will be able to consult with your lawyer before the arraignment, whether you hire one or one is assigned to you. 

At this point, for lesser charges, you may be released without bail, upon conditions set by the court. If the judge does assign bail, you will be held until that bail can be assembled, either by your friends or relatives directly or through a bail bondsman. Bail is the incentive the court uses to make sure you do not flee and show up on your assigned court date

So what is a common bail amount? It is not really possible to predict, Spoor said. Bail bonds can range anywhere from $100 to $100,000, depending on the crime, the criminal history of the accused, the judge presiding over the arraignment, or the county that the arraignment is being held in. Typically, bail set in Kent County is higher than bails set in Barry or Allegan. What's more, you can expect the process to take longer in Kent County; it will take between 45 minutes and 3 hours for someone to post bail for you in Kent County. 

When I talked to him, Spoor repeatedly emphasized the importance of choosing a reputable and trustworthy bail bondsman. There is so much built-in uncertainty about the costs associated with arrest and trial, and most people are not thinking clearly when they get the phone call in the middle of the night. Many of them are also very vulnerable and inexperienced in what to expect and what is legal for policemen, lawyers, and bail bondsmen to do and charge. If anything happens during the arrest process that seems like it might be illegal, do not hesitate to question or do your own research. The system has been modified (to some extent) to avoid taking advantage of people, but by the time an arrest occurs, your ability to affect the outcome is significantly diminished. 

This is why it's important to know what happens before it can happen - and also make sure it doesn't happen, if at all possible.