Booking Process

Fortunately for most of us, we’ve never been arrested and have no idea what happens after someone is arrested for a crime.  The booking process may vary slightly depending on the jurisdiction, but it’s basically the same wherever you may have been arrested.

    1. Your information is recorded.  Typically, your full name and the crime you were arrested for.
    2. You are photographed.  Your mugshot is taken for identification purposes as well as to document your condition at the time of your arrest.  Any marks on your body could be evidence.  Any tattoos can be used for identification as well.
    3. They take your clothing and property.  Because your clothing and personal property could be or hold evidence in the crime that was committed, the police will confiscate and catalog them.  If they are considered evidence, they may not be returned to you until after your trial, but anything not considered evidence should be returned to you when or if you post bail.
    4. They fingerprint you.  Although some police stations still use ink to fingerprint suspects, most use computers to do the job.  Your fingerprints will be put into the FBI’s national database and may be compared to unsolved crimes. You may also be required to give a DNA sample which may also be entered into the national database.
    5. You will be searched thoroughly.   Depending on the crime, you may be subject to a full body search which is legal even for minor offenses if you are going to be put in jail in order to preserve any evidence as well as to keep drugs or weapons from being smuggled into jail.
    6. Your name is searched.   The officer will search their database to find any outstanding warrants that you may have.  If you have any, you may be denied bail.
    7. You will undergo a health screening.  A health screening will be performed to assess whether or not you are in need of immediate medical attention, and for the protection of the prison population, they will screen you for tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases.


  • You are incarcerated.



The amount of time that passes from your arrest to your incarceration varies depending on the number of people waiting to be processed ahead of you, as well as whether or not all of the steps in the booking process need to be done.  You may not need to have a full body search, for example.  

After you have gone through the entire booking process, you will have a bail hearing at which time the court will look at the details of your case and your history and determine whether or not bail will be set for you.  If bail is set, you can call a bail bondsman to arrange for your release from jail.