The first thing that happens when a person has been arrested on a drug charge is the “booking.” During a booking, a police officer records all the information related to the crime that has taken place and runs a background check on the offender. An officer will obtain a picture of the defendant as well as his fingerprints and run these through a state and nationwide database to check for any outstanding warrants. The defendant will also be searched and receive a medical evaluation. All in all, the booking process can take anywhere from a few hours to an entire day depending on how many arrests came in that day.
After the suspect has been booked, he or she will be held in jail until it’s time for the arraignment for the drug arrest charges and the bail hearing. At the arraignment the defendant is read all of their rights and asked to plead guilty or not guilty. If a defendant was able to hire a lawyer the lawyer will be present at the arraignment; if a defendant cannot afford a lawyer the defendant has the option of requesting a public defender. The arraignment and bond hearing may occur at the same time, but if a defendant cannot arrange to hire a lawyer they may need to wait until a public defender can make an appointment for the bond hearing. At the bond hearing, the prosecutor will ask the judge for a specific amount of bail and the defendant’s attorney may argue for no bail or a lesser amount. The final outcome is the judge making a ruling on the bail.
Once the plea has been delivered and the bail has been set, the defendant is free to leave. As long as he’s paid his bail, that is. For minor drug arrests, the bail could be fairly low. For felony drug arrests, or repeated arrests, the bail is often quite high and the defendant may need bail bond company services to make their bail. If the drug arrest charge is extremely severe or the defendant is considered a flight risk, the judge can refuse to set a bail at all. In this case, the defendant will have to wait in jail until their court hearing. In a vast majority of cases, purchasing a bond is truly the best pre-trial option. It’s drastically more affordable than paying bail in full but it still guarantees the defendant’s freedom during the pre-trial interim.