San Diego Criminal Defense

101 W. Broadway, Suite 1770 | San Diego, CA 92101

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San Diego Criminal Lawyer

What to Expect When You Are Arrested

Explained by a San Diego Criminal Lawyer

Critical information that you need to know about Arrests, Bail and Arraignment


When Can Police Arrest You?

ANYTIME THEY WANT. Illegal or "False" arrests - those are arrests without a valid criminal charge - happen all the time. Simply being arrested does not mean you will be charged with a crime. As long as you do not say anything to the police you may likely be released without a formal charge. The job of police is to "investigate crime." Police have no power to "charge you with a crime," only the District Attorney's Office has that power. Police write a recommendation to the District Attorney that certain charges be filed. 

What do I do if the arrest is illegal?

Cooperate, but SAY NOTHING and DO NOTHING, except say that you want to speak to your lawyer.







You may be assault by police, or handled with excessive force. Remain silent - do not even tell them that what they are doing is illegal - this will only antagonize them more and put you in more jeopardy. They will eventually give you the opportunity to make a phone call. However, they will make you wait - and they will ask you questions while you wait. If you make any statements about anything, they can continue to ignore your request for a lawyer indefinitely. The longer you stay silent and the longer they hold you on an illegal charge the greater the likelihood you can bring a civil suit for false arrest. 

Once you arrested you may first be taken to your local substation for "holding." Police may try to interview you, but they have to take you to one of the three facilities for processing within the first few hours of your arrest. You cannot be bailed out until you have been processed at one of these facilities. 


Vista Detention Facility

Downtown - San Diego City Jail


Las Colinas Detention Facility

Vista Detention Facility

Where do you go when you get arrested?

What happens when you get arrested?

The first step is processing. You are photographed, fingerprinted, and placed in a holding cell, usually with other recently processed inmates. 


You can be held for up to 3 hours before being allowed to make your phone call. 
You don't get 1 phone call from jail - you get 3. California Penal Code 851.5(a)


The Interrogation

The only rule you need to remember is:


Say nothing to any police officer, and ask for a lawyer. No matter how friendly they are. You are legally entitled to have 3 phone calls within 3 hours of your arrest


You can expect to hear things such as:

  • "I'm just trying to make conversation,"

  • "I'm just trying to get to know you."

  • "I'm trying to give you an opportunity to explain your side of the story."

  • "If you want to go to jail for a long time and not talk to us, that's fine."




The job of the police is to "investigate." They are only concerned with one thing, finding out what happened. Many times they have a good idea of what happened and will try and convince you that it's in your best interest to tell them your side of the story. IT IS NOT. 


You can expect to be "interviewed" by an officer or a detective within the first three hours. Do not say anything to them except that you wish to speak with a lawyer. Failure to follow this simple rule leads to more convictions than any other factor in the criminal process. 


The police will act like they are your best friends and they are trying to help you out. They just need you to answer a few questions and you'll be out in no time. This is a trick to get you into making incriminating statements. The job of the police is to gather evidence and your own statements are the most valuable pieces of evidence in the whole process. It's tempting to think you can talk your way out of a charge, but the reality is that you're talking to the wrong person. The police do not charge you with crimes. Only the district attorney can charge you with crimes. If you made no statements to the police, it is less likely they will choose to file a criminal charge against you. 


Protect yourself and learn how the Police can legally lie to you <- Click Here

How do you determine bail?

It is a two step process. First you need to identify the charge. Look for the letters "PC" - which is short for penal code. If you see PC and a series of numbers, that is the specific charge against you. You may be charged with VC (Vehcile Code violations), or HS (Health & Safety code violations [drug charges]). 


This document is called a bail schedule. Look for your penal code to determine the amount of bail that you need to make bail. A bail bonds agent will also do this for you. Bail numbers are generally very high and few people can afford to put up the amount in cash. You can put up real property as surety to bail. You can go to a bailbondsman, but you will pay high fees for the convenience they offer. Calling an attorney before you call a bailbondsman will potentially save you thousands of dollars because we can negotiate a lower rate for you.


To learn how to bail someone out of jail <- Click here



What is an arraignment?

Arraignment must happen within 48 hours of an arrest - If your charge is non-violent and you do not have a criminal history, the police may simply release you on a "promise to appear." 


An arraignment is just a fancy word for your first appearance in front of a judge after your arrest. At the arraignment they ONLY thing the judge is interested in is whether or not you wish to plead guilty or not guilty, and whether you wish to waive time for trial (because the system is jammed). Judge's will also revist the issue of bail on request. If you were previously unable to afford bail, this is your opportunity to request lower bail, if the Judge says no, you may request a bail reduction hearing. 


Stay calm, by the arraignment you have already hired a San Diego criminal lawyer, and you only need to say two words - NOT GUILTY. If you are assigned a public defender, they may advise you to take the first plea the District Attorney offers - sometimes, that's "community court," do NOT accept the community court offer. You must plead guilty if you want to accept that offer, and you haven't even had a chance to fight for your case. 



What is a Bail Reduction Hearing?

A Bail Reduction Hearing is a proceeding where the Judge re-evaluates your bail amount. At this hearing the Judge will not be primarily concerned with your guilt or innocence, they are trying to ascertain whether or not you will show up to court for your proceedings. If the district attorney makes a statement about how strong the evidence is, and if the serious nature of the charges mean a lengthy prison sentence may be on the horizon - the Judge may be less inclined to lower your bail - and may perhaps rescind your previous bail and remand you to custody for the duration of your trial. 


However, a bail reduction hearing is also an opportunity for the Judge to hear about your strong ties to the community, your family life, and your good deeds that make you less of a flight risk. Remember, the Judge is primarily concerned with your likelihood to attend court in the future - if you can make a compelling case that you are not a flight risk, your bail may be reduced or exonerated - and the court will expect you to appear on your own volition.