Criminal Offenses

Usually you will be taken into custody when you’re arrested. The police may read you your rights, photograph you, and take your fingerprints. If you are arrested without a warrant, a judicial magistrate must determine whether there is enough probable cause to charge you, and this usually must be done within 48 hours of your arrest. The 48-hour rule does not apply to an arrest with a warrant, because a judicial determination of probable cause has already been made to support issuing the warrant.

Remember that you have two improtant rights: the right to remain silent and the right to a lawyer. If you are indigent, an attorney from the State Public Defender’s office will be appointed. Police may not ask you any more questions if you claim either or both these basic rights. If you are unable to communicate with the court or your attorney because of a disability or a language barrier, an interpreter will be provided for you.

To be released from custody after your arrest, you must post bail. In some cases, you can do this by a signature bond (a written promise to appear in court). In other cases, you may be require to provide either a secured surety bond (you put up property, such as a car or a house), or cash (which may be posted by you or someone else). In addition, the judge may impose others conditions on you that he or she deems reasonable to assure your appearance or protects members of the community.

If you’re convicted of a misdemeanor, you may be imprisoned for up to one year. Any “time” you serve will be in the county jail or house of corrections. A felony charge is much more serious, because it can mean a year or more in prison. In either case, it’s very wise to consult an attoryney. If you can’t afford one, the judge will refer you to the State Public Defender’s office.

In either a misdemeanor or a felony case, you’ll have an initial appearance. At this appearance you’ll be served with a criminal complaint that outlines the charge, the probable cause supporting the charge, and the penalty.