What Happens After Someone Is Arrested?

It’s not fun to think about being arrested, but understanding the process and how to navigate it is essential in many cases. Protesters who realize they may be rounded up by police with or without cause often plan for the occasion, for example. More often, it’s important to understand in case there’s a bad day and you have to navigate a minor issue like a DUI charge or a misunderstanding during a private altercation. Even if that’s never the case, almost everyone has friends and family who do wind up in those situations, and understanding the arrest and arraignment process can help you assist them.

1. Arrest & Booking

The first step is the most obvious. Police detain the subject and bring them to a precinct or county facility for booking and holding. Most often, holding in these locations is extremely temporary and transportation to a jail near the courthouse is provided immediately before or after the arrest process. The exact process depends on the law enforcement procedures in the area and whether the arresting officer is a state trooper, county sheriff, or municipal police officer.

2. Arraignment & Bail

After the booking process is complete and the paperwork following the arrest filled out for the prosecutor to review, the next step is typically a wait for a hearing. Depending on when the arrest occurs, this hearing could be in just a couple hours or it could be days. Standard procedure is to offer a bail hearing within 24 hours, but holidays and weekends can increase the wait time, especially in rural counties. At the arraignment, the formal charges are read and a plea is entered. Bail is also set, providing a path to release for the defendant pending trial.

3. Posting Bail or Bond

Depending on the bail conditions and cost, bail bonds Harrisburg PA might be a better option than cash bail. While you do get the bail money back after meeting all the court dates required for the case, it can be a costly way to tie up capital. In many cases, it’s not even affordable. By contrast, bail bonds cost only about 10% of the total bail amount, but the cost is nonrefundable. For more serious charges with bail amounts in the high five or even six-figure amounts, the bond is almost a necessity, even if the judge doesn’t make it one.


If bail or bond is posted, release typically follows in just a couple hours. The exact wait time depends on how busy the jail is on that day. Without posting bail, the defendant typically winds up waiting for trial in jail.