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What Happens When You’ve Been Arrested: The Booking Process

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been caught shoplifting, where driving while intoxicated, or have been arrested because evidence suggests that you’ve committed a crime, the entire arrest process starts with you being booked.

The reason for being booked is to create a formal record of your arrest. It’s called booking, because back in the day when jails didn’t have computers, the booking officer entered everything into the big book of the jail’s records and the phrase has stuck, even though everything is currently entered into a computer database.

The amount of time it takes you to be formally booked really depends on how busy the jail is. If it’s a slow day, you could be booked and processed in less than an hour, but if it’s a busy night, it could take hours to complete. If it is a busy night, it’s in your best interest to stay calm and not complain. Getting agitated and rude during the booking process not only looks bad in terms of your case but can also result in additional charges if you get violent and start to rant and rage.

There are specific steps that the booking officer goes through while adding your record to the computer.

Collecting Your Information

One of the first things the booking officer will want to know is your full name, your address, and if you have any identifying features. This is not a good time for you to be sarcastic. Answer their questions quickly, honestly, and calmly. During this stage, you will also be asked to provide emergency contact information.

Taking Your Mug Shot

The next step will likely involve having your mug shot taken. Police rely on mug shorts of a variety of reasons, including:

  • Creating a visual record that helps them separate you from people who have the same name
  • Creating a visual record of your physical condition at the time of your arrest
  • Creating a current image of what you look like which can be handy if they need to investigate your case further and ask people if they recognize you
    • The booking officer will explain how the mug shot process works. This should only take a few minutes to complete.

      Removing Your Personal Items

      You can’t bring personal items like belts, wallets, cell phones, and jewelry into the cell when you’re arrested. The booking officer will take these things and log them into their records. When you’re released on bail, you’ll get them back. As hard as it is to pass your personal possessions over, remember that the officer is only doing their job and getting angry will only make the entire situation worse. This is frequently the stage that can take the longest amount of time, especially if you had a great deal on your when you were arrested.

      In addition to remaining calm and compliant during the booking process, you also need to not say anything that could potentially be used against you in your case while you’re being booked. The best policy is to not speak unless you’re being asked a direct question that relates specifically to the booking process.