New Haven Criminal Arrest Process

The criminal justice system can be a very complicated, intimidating, and daunting experience. From the outset, if you are arrested, you have little control over the process. Once you are in court, things can move very quickly. You may not understand exactly what is occurring, what actions you need to take, or what you should say to the judge. All in all, the entire ordeal can be very chaotic and nerve-wracking.

The best decision you can make to navigate through this chaos is to hire an experienced and qualified New Haven criminal attorney to represent you. At Billings & Barrett, our criminal defense attorneys will make every effort to explain the process to you, discuss your options, and defend your rights every step of the way.

The Initial Arrest

There are two methods by which you may be arrested:

  • Either with a warrant
  • Or an “on-site” arrest.

A warrant arrest typically occurs after a prolonged investigation. The alleged crime occurred at a previous date or location; it is not taking place at the time the police arrive. Once the police department completes their investigation, the police officer will submit an arrest warrant (a written report outlining the charges and evidence) to both a state’s attorney and a judge. The state’s attorney and judge review the arrest warrant to determine if “probable cause” exists. If they determine that there is probable cause, the arrest warrant is issued.

Depending on the police department, the charges, and a number of other factors, the police department may contact you in advance to offer you the opportunity to turn yourself in to begin the booking process. Or, they may choose to show up at your home or workplace. An on-site arrest occurs when the police arrive on the scene, have probable cause at that time, and take you into custody.

An on-site arrest, which usually occurs when someone calls the police and the officers arrive on scene in the midst of a criminal incident. For example, if there is a domestic violence call by a neighbor, the police arrive on scene and find the two people actively yelling at each other or threatening each other. One or both individuals can be placed under arrest immediately. That is an on-site arrest.

Arrest Processing

When someone is arrested via an on-site arrest or via a warrant, the police take the individual into custody. That means the individual is handcuffed, put in the back seat of the police car, and brought to the police department.

The first step is the booking process. Once you have been taken into custody, you will be processed at the police department. That entails being photographed, fingerprinted, and providing the police with basic biographical information: height, weight, birth date, social security number, and other basic information. At that time, “bail” will be set.

Setting Bail

Bail can range from a Promise to Appear (PTA) to several million-dollar bail. Bail is simply a way to ensure you return to court for your court dates. The amount of bail specified depends on a number of factors including the seriousness of the charges, your criminal record, and ties to the local community.

In a case where a PTA is set, you will sign a document promising to come to court. In a situation where a dollar figure is set, you would need to “post” the bond in order to be released from custody. There are several ways to post a bond, the most common of which is either with a bail bondsman (they will charge a percentage of the bond as their fee) or you post the entire amount with the court.

If you are released from custody, either on a PTA or after posting bond, you will be given a summons from the police department that provides you with a notice of the first court date and the location of the court. This information is extremely important because missing court is considered committing the crime, Failure to Appear, which carries its own serious penalties.

If it is a warrant arrest the bond amount will be set by the judge who signed the warrant. If it is an on-site arrest, the bond is set by the police department. Once a bond is set, there are several options for posting the bond. Most people will elect to post the bond through a bondsman. A bondsman charges a percentage of the total bond. The bondsman then post the remainder of the bond and the individual is released. The money paid to the bondsman is not returned. Another option is to pay the entire bond to the court. Under this scenario, the funds paid to the court will be returned upon the disposition of the case so long as the person does not fail to appear in court.


If an individual is unable to post the bond, the person will be held overnight and brought to an arraignment before the court. The purpose of an arraignment is for a judge to review the bond and find probable cause if it was an onsite arrest. At the arraignment, the bond can be reduced to a Promise to Appear, left as set by the police, or raised. Following the arraignment, the court will continue the case to begin the process.

Building a Defense

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, it is absolutely necessary to pursue any and all defenses. There is too much at risk – your freedom, family, and reputation. At Billings & Barrett, we understand that these risks may impair your well-being and we immediately begin preparing your defense from the moment we speak to you during the first phone call.