What to do when Family Member got Arrested?

A step-by-step guide to help navigate, support and act in time of crisis

There’s no easy way to find out that your family member has been arrested. Most individuals instantly feel overwhelmed after finding out this news. Between battling emotions such as fear, anger and sadness, it is hard to overcome your own shock to think clearly and take the next appropriate steps. This guide is not legal advice, but serves as a resource to help navigate and guide you through the process so that you may support your family member to the best of your ability in this unfortunate time.

Offer Support to Your Relative

  • If your family member calls you to inform you that they have been arrested, help them to stay calm, offer your understanding, support and let them know that they have an ally to rely on and that they are not alone
  • If your family member is detained by authorities, remind them of their right to remain silent, that anything they disclose can be used against them and the right to an attorney if any questioning is involved
  • Remind them not to discuss their case or alleged charges during their stay in jail
  • If he/she has any medications or medical ailments tell them to be honest about this information and assure them that they can and should discuss this with the staff or registered nurse, if available
  • Find out from your family member what facility or jail they will be going to

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Understanding the Process

Booking: A lot will be going on once your family member arrives at the jail; this requires patience and empathy on your end for your loved one as it can be an emotionally taxing process. Upon arrival they will go into a holding area and wait for processing. Soon after arrival the jail will take copies of fingerprints; all personal items will be removed and accounted for and background checks will be done. The background check can take between 2-24hrs depending on the detention facility. The facility enters the inmate’s fingerprints in a computer that will run a nationwide check for active felony warrants.  While everything is being checked by the system your family member may be moved again to a holding cell until process is complete. You will not be allowed to contact your family member during this process.

Bail: A predetermined penal amount based on the charges. This is the amount that is required by the jail to release someone on bail. You can put up cash at the jail or have a bail bondsman post a surety bond. A bondsman will charge between 8% and 10%; rates are set by the state of California’s department of insurance. The bail bond is to guarantee that the inmate shows up for all court appearances. If the inmate does not make all court appearance a warrant will be issued for their arrest and the bondsman is liable for the full amount of the bail. If an inmate makes all court appearances and the case is finished the bondsman will receive his bond back from the courts.

Decide on Legal Representation

You and your family member may want to retain an attorney or utilize the Public Defenders’ Office for proper representation elow is more information on these two, very viable options

Public Defender:

  • If you or your relative cannot afford an attorney, you/they have the right to have a public defender appointed.
  • If assigned a public defender, be aware of their schedule and know that they do not have a lot of time for phone calls. Be prepared and ready with all questions and concerns before every court date and/or communication with your attorney.

Private Attorney:

  • You, your relative or other family can always retain a private attorney to defend your family member
  • Do your homework and research when hiring an attorney; double check the type of law they practice, how long they have been in business, testimonials/reviews and also check your local BBB.
  • While a private attorney will undoubtedly have more time to offer you than a public defender, he/she is also on the clock and you are paying for every hour and correspondence. Be mindful of this when communicating or requesting meetings

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