Arrest, booking, and bail are the first three stages of the criminal court process. We hope they’ll never happen to us or a loved one, but when they do you’ll want John Kirby Law, a top criminal defense attorney in Southern California, on your side. Let’s take a look at what each of these terms entails.


When a police officer places an individual under arrest, that person is in police custody and can longer move about freely. An arrest typically occurs in one of three ways: 1) a police officer personally observes a crime – perhaps on street patrol when a burglary is taking place, or when he suspects someone of drunk driving; 2) a police officer has “probable cause” to arrest – that is, he has a reasonable belief (based on facts and circumstances) that a person has committed or is about to commit a crime. For example, the police officer encounters a store that’s just been robbed and sees someone running away. And 3) a police officer has an arrest warrant for an individual, issued by a judge.


Following an arrest, the suspect is taken to a police station where he is booked/processed. A police officer will search, photograph, and fingerprint the subject, record the suspect’s personal information, do a search of the suspect’s criminal background, record information of the alleged crime, confiscate any personal property on the suspect’s body, and place the suspect in a police station holding cell or a local jail. The suspect will also undergo a health exam, and the officer will check the law enforcement database for any outstanding warrants.

In some instances a full-body search might be required, if the officer suspects the individual is concealing a firearm and/or contraband.

If a person is arrested for a minor offense, i.e. speeding, the booking process does not apply. Instead, a police officer gives the person a written citation. This citation is signed by the individual, who in signing the citation agrees to appear in court at a later date for sentencing.


Bail is money deposited with the court that serves as the suspect’s “promise” that he will not try to flee and that he will appear for all future court dates. Though booking procedures rarely differ much from suspect to suspect, the circumstances surrounding bail can vary depending on the charges, the suspect’s arrest record, and the location of arrest. Depending on these variables, a formal bail proceeding may be required. At this event, the suspect (or ideally, the suspect’s lawyer) can present evidence. The court will then decide whether bail is required (and if so, how much), or whether it will be denied.

Why You Need an Attorney

Having a qualified, knowledgeable attorney representing your defense not only gives you access to the latest information regarding your city/state’s laws, but also equips you with an experienced partner who understands how the system works and how to get you the best deal. For more information, contact John Kirby Law today.