When officers make an arrest, they have the option of merely issuing a citation for the person to later appear in court, or take them into custody. That decision depends on how serious the crime is. Petty offenses warrant a citation, whereas violent crimes or serious felonies will likely land a person in custody. A person’s physical or mental state can play a part as well. If it appears the person is a danger to himself or others, he’s likely going to be taken into custody.

When a suspect is taken to jail, booking officers process them into a jail system, taking the following steps:

  1. The suspect’s name and the crime for which he was arrested is recorded
  2. A mug shot is taken.
  3. Fingerprints and sometimes DNA samples are taken. These can be used to cross-reference other law enforcement databases, and can be used in connecting people to other crimes.
  4. A health screen is performed for the arrestee’s, the other inmates’ and deputies’ safety
  5. The suspect’s clothing and personal property (such as a wallet, purse, or keys) are confiscated and locked up for safe-keeping.
  6. A strip search is conducted in order to check for weapons or any other contraband.
  7. A warrant check is made to see if there are outstanding warrants or other pending charges.

The booking process can take hours depending on the volume of arrests, staffing issues, etc.

A lot of people end up making their situation worse by talking too much after getting booked. An arrestee will not yet have spoken to a lawyer, and may not know their constitutional rights. You’ve all heard it in the movies and Law and Order “You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” No excuses. The best thing to do is not say a word about the facts of the case to other inmates or the deputies.

Many people have made voluntary statements to another inmate or deputy which ended up being recorded or written down, and used against them in court, sometimes even resulting in additional criminal charges. No details about a case or investigation should be spoken to anyone except an attorney.

The famous “jail phone call” is a thing! Actually, under California Penal Code section 851.5, immediately upon being booked, or no more than three hours after being arrested, an arrested person has the right to make at least three completed phone calls. 1. To an attorney, this is why it’s always important to have a card on you, because you never know; 2. To a bail bondsman; and 3. to a relative or other person.

The easiest way to get information on a person who’s been arrested is to google “who’s in jail.” This will take you to the Sheriff’s website. You enter the person’s first and last name, and their information will pop up. The person’s name, date of birth, weight, and height appear, along with the booking date and time. Also the charges for which the person was arrested will be listed. The next calls should be to a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney and a bail bondsman.