Criminal Procedures

The Criminal Process

After a person is booked, what happens next?

Shortly after the booking process, the suspect is brought before a magistrate or judge—sometimes in person and sometimes via closed circuit television. At this procedure—called an initial appearance or first appearance—the magistrate determines if the police had probable cause to arrest the suspect (if there was no arrest warrant), sets bail, and assigns legal counsel if the defendant cannot afford counsel and the charge is serious enough to warrant jail time. This appearance usually takes place within 24 hours or 48 hours of the initial arrest. Other states provide different time limits for when this appearance must take place.


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