Being arrested can be an anxiety-inducing, scary event, regardless of what the arrest was for. When a person has no prior criminal history, the anxiety and stress that accompany being arrested can continue well after bonding out of jail because of a lack of familiarity with what happens next. So, what happens after a person is arrested?
Arrest, Book-in, and Magistration (Less Than 48 Hours Later, Typically Within 4 to 12 hours Later)
Shortly after a person is arrested, police transport the person to either the city jail or county jail. Police departments without a jail (e.g. UNTPD, or an arrest by State Troopers) take the person to the Denton County Jail (127 N. Woodrow Lane, Denton, Texas); police departments with a jail (e.g. Denton Police Department, Lewisville Police Department, etc.) take the person to their city jail. Typically, the arresting officer begins preparing a short, sworn version of the facts that led the officer to arrest the person. This document is called an affidavit of probable cause.
Once at the jail, the person has his personal belongings (wallet, car keys, phone, etc.) inventoried on a property sheet, removed, and bagged. The person is then asked routine booking questions by the officer—generally questions to obtain identifying information and contact information. A series of questions about medications and medical conditions the person may take or have are asked as well. This is referred to as the process of being “booked-in” to the jail.
A short time later (and, under Texas law, in no event later than 48 hours, but typically nowhere near this long), the person is brought before a judge for a process called “magistration.” During magistration, the key task of the judge is to determine whether the affidavit of probable cause submitted by the arresting officer establishes probable cause to hold the person in jail. If it does, the magistration process continues; if the affidavit does not establish probable cause, the person must be released.
During the magistration process, the judge informs the person of the charge against him, sets an amount for bail, and advises the person of his constitutional and statutory rights (e.g. the right to remain silent, the right to appointment of counsel, the right to an examining trial, etc.) For people who are not U.S. citizens, the judge will ask whether the person wants the consular representative for the person’s home country notified.
Bond (Anytime After Magistration)
Only once a person has been magistrated can the person be bonded out of jail. This makes sense because, until the person has been magistrated, there is no amount of bond set. The amount bond is set at by the judge depends on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, the severity of the offense (felony or misdemeanor), the nature of the offense (violent offense or nonviolent offense), and the strength of the affidavit of probable cause. Typically, misdemeanor bonds are set somewhere between $500 and $2,000; felony bonds are generally at least $1,500 or more.
In order to secure the release of a person who has been arrested, bond can be posted in cash in the full amount of the bond set by the judge (a cash bond), or a percentage (usually between 10-20%) of the amount of bond can be paid to a bond company who then acts as a surety for the remaining amount of the bond and secures the released of the arrested person. Just as the person was booked in, once bond is posted, jailers begin the process of booking the person out. This process can take an hour or two.
The Case Report Is Assembled By the Arresting Agency (months to over a year following arrest)
Once a person has bonded out of jail, there is usually a significant (6 months to a year or more) time period before the case is filed and the person is required to appear in court. This period is typically one of the primary causes of anxiety—after the fast-paced series of arrest, book-in, magistration, and bond, a long delay hits. People assume they should be doing something during this time period (and they should: CALL A LAWYER AS SOON AS YOU ARE RELEASED!), but are unsure what to do.
During this period, the case is being prepared by the arresting agency/officer(s). “Preparation” of the case includes compiling all the video (dashcamera and bodycamera video), audio, and photographs from the arrest; all reports made by police officers relating to the arrest; and other information (e.g. witness statements) relating to the arrest. If blood or a controlled substance was taken from the arrested person, the substance is sent to an external lab (in Garland or Austin) to be tested. If additional interviews of witnesses or documents are needed for the case, police typically follow up during the weeks and months after an arrest to obtain the needed materials. If a case has labs, generally police will wait until the lab results have been obtained to submit the case. This can take anywhere from 6 months to 18 months.
Case Arrives at Intake Division of District Attorney’s Office (anywhere from a couple of months after arrest to a year or so following arrest)
Months (or longer) later, the police will submit the completed report of the arrest to the intake division of the Denton County District Attorney’s office. The intake division is a group of prosecutors who determine whether or not a case should be filed (for misdemeanors) or submitted to the grand jury and recommended for prosecution (for felonies.) Misdemeanors only require a document (called an “information”) be submitted to officially file the case. Texas law requires that all felony cases be submitted to a grand jury; the grand jury then hears the case (as presented by the prosecutor and investigating officer) and votes whether to true-bill (indict) the person for the offense, or to no-bill (declined to indict) the offense.
Once a misdemeanor case has been filed, or a felony case has been indicted, the case is assigned to a specific court, and the accused person is required to begin appearing in court. For misdemeanor offenses, the State has two years from the date the offense was alleged to have been committed to file the charge; most felonies are required to be indicted within three years of the date of the offense—however, some felonies have a longer statute of limitations.