What Happens During Booking?

Posted by Chris Morales on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 @ 08:20 AM

Defendants who are arrested and taken to jail are normally booked shortly upon arrival.

Booking records provide information about the people who are brought to jail. Because booking creates an official arrest record, arrested suspects who can post bail immediately often can’t be released until after the booking process is complete. Even suspects who receive citations in lieu of being taken to jail often must go through a booking process within a few days of their arrest.

How Long Does Booking Take?

At its slowest, the booking process may take hours to complete. How long it takes depends on how many of the standard booking procedures are conducted (explained below), the number of arrestees being booked at the same time, and the number of police officers involved in the booking process.

Typical Steps in the Booking Process

Step 1: Recording the suspect’s name and the crime for which the suspect was arrested

In olden days, this information became part of a handwritten police blotter; now virtually all booking records are computerized.

Step 2: Taking a "mug shot"

Mug shots have a variety of possible uses. For instance, a mug shot can help to determine which of two people with the same name was arrested. A mug shot can also help to establish a suspect’s physical condition at the time of arrest. The suspect’s physical condition at arrest can be relevant to a claim of police use of unlawful force or to whether the suspect had been in an altercation before being arrested.

Step 3: Taking the suspect’s clothing and personal property into police custody

At a suspect’s request, some booking officers allow suspects to keep small personal items like a wristwatch. Any articles taken from the suspect must be returned upon release from jail, unless they constitute contraband or evidence of a crime.

Example: Sticky Fingers is arrested for stealing a calculator. The police seize the calculator at the scene of the arrest. During the booking process, the police find a packet of illegal drugs and a stolen camera in Fingers’s backpack. These items will not be returned to Fingers upon his release on bail. The calculator and the camera are evidence of the crime of shoplifting. The drugs are illegal contraband; the police can take them regardless of whether drug charges are filed against Fingers.

Step 4: Taking fingerprints

Fingerprints are a standard part of a booking record, and are typically entered into a nationwide database maintained by the FBI and accessible to most local, state, and federal police agencies. Comparing fingerprints left at the scene of a crime to those already in the database helps police officers identify perpetrators of crimes.

Step 5: Conducting a full body search

Police officers routinely make cursory pat-down inspections at the time of arrest. Far more intrusive (and to many people, deeply humiliating) is the strip search that is often part of the booking process. To prevent weapons and drugs from entering a jail, booking officers frequently require arrestees to remove all their clothing and submit to a full body search.

Strip searches are legal even when the arrestee has been brought in for a relatively minor crime, such as an infraction; and even when there are no facts that would suggest that the arrestee is carrying a weapon or contraband. In a 2012 case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such a search was legitimate even in the case of a person who was stopped for a traffic violation and arrested for failure to pay an outstanding fine (the fine had in fact been paid long ago).  (Florence v. County of Burlington, No. 10-945.)

Step 6: Checking for warrants

The booking officer checks to see if an arrestee has any other charges pending, ranging from unpaid parking tickets to murder charges in other states. Suspects with warrants pending are normally not released on bail.

Step 7: Health screening

To protect the health and safety of jail officials and other inmates, the booking process may include X-rays (to detect tuberculosis) and blood tests (to detect sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and AIDS).

Step 8: Eliciting information relevant to incarceration conditions

To reduce the likelihood of violence and injuries, jail officials often ask arrestees about gang affiliations, former gang affiliations, and other outside relationships. Depending on the answers, an inmate may have to be placed in protective custody or housed in one section of a jail rather than another. Routine questioning along these lines does not constitute an “interrogation” that requires officers to give a Miranda warning to the suspect. Information that suspects disclose in response to a booking officer’s questions may be admissible in evidence under the “routine booking question exception” to Miranda. (Pennsylvania v. Muniz, U.S. Sup. Ct. (1990); see Exceptions to the Miranda Rule.)

Step 9: DNA sample

Suspects may be required to provide DNA samples that are entered in national DNA databases. (Can officers collect DNA samples from suspects?)

This article was excerpted from The Criminal Law Handbook, by Paul Bergman, J.D., and Sara J. Berman, J.D.

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Tags: Criminal Defense, jail, defendants, record, suspect, Warrant, booking, attorney, arrested

Police Searches of Backyards

Posted by Chris Morales on Mon, Nov 16, 2015 @ 08:30 AM

Learn when the government can peak into your private property.

The Fourth Amendment protects your home—including your yard—from warrantless searches in most instances. Your yard is considered “curtilage,” land that surrounds and is associated with a house and is worthy of privacy protection. (Courts determine where curtilage ends on a case-by-case basis.)

But, as a matter of logistics, it can be difficult to shield a backyard from outside viewers. And the public’s ability to see into your yard is a factor supporting officers’ legal authority to search it without a warrant. For example, a police officer who is in a publicly accessible place but can easily see something incriminating in your yard can probably cite that evidence in support of a warrant to search your home (and yard).

Consider the following example, which illustrates the limits on the extent to which the government can snoop around your property.

Who Goes There?

Police officers receive a tip from a confidential informant that Emilio has just stolen some anhydrous ammonia, which is often used to manufacture methamphetamine. They discover that there is a warrant outstanding for his arrest, so they go looking for him. They eventually go to the home of his known associate, Jesse, late at night.

When the officers arrive at Jesse’s home, they see Emilio’s car in the driveway. They get out of their patrol car and walk down the side of the house, all away around to the back. There are no lights on, so the officers use flashlights. They notice several “no trespassing” signs on the property, which is bordered  by a wooded area (other than the front of the house, which has a road leading to it). There’s no fence.

The officers observe a shed and a mobile home in the backyard. They begin to walk between the mobile home and the shed, when suddenly the shed door swings open and Jesse runs out. The officers order him to the ground, and he complies. The door to the shed is now open such that the officers can see Emilio, various jars and glasses containing liquids, and a hot plate inside. The officers order Emilio out. After he exits the shed, they take a glance inside to see if anyone is still in it. They see a methamphetamine manufacturing setup and take photographs of it. A couple officers leave to get a warrant, then come back with it, at which point all the officers search the entire residence. They find more incriminating evidence.

In his prosecution for methamphetamine manufacturing, Jesse moves to suppress all the evidence the police officers gathered. The court grants the motion on the following grounds:

  • the officers arrived at the residence late at night
  • there were no lights on to welcome the public
  • the entrance to the residence was in the front
  • the “no trespassing” signs clearly asserted a privacy interest over all the property, and
  • the backyard wasn’t visible from the street fronting the house.

Jesse therefore had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his backyard. (State v. Kruse, 306 S.W.3d 603, 611 (Mo. Ct. App. 2010).)

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Tags: amendment, privacy, Warrant, government, trespassing

Where the Police Can Look When Your Roommate Consents to a Search

Posted by Chris Morales on Mon, Oct 26, 2015 @ 11:40 AM

Police need a warrant before they can search a home, unless an exception to the warrant requirement applies. One such exception is consent: If someone with control over the property agrees to a police search request, the subsequent search is legal. Someone with “control” over the property includes a resident of the home, but not someone who is clearly a momentary visitor. (For more on guests, see Ignorance Isn’t Bliss: When Police Search a Home With Only a Guest’s Consent.)

But even when it’s clear that someone has authority to consent to a police search, that person doesn’t necessarily have authority to allow the police to search all parts of the home. This issue frequently arises with roommates, who might share certain areas of the home but not others (such as their bedrooms). When police come knocking at the door and find only one cotenant or roommate home who readily invites the officers in to take a look, is the consent sufficient? If so, what is the scope of that invitation? Where, exactly, can the police search? 

Police Searches When Only One Roommate Consents

The police can enter a home when only one occupant of several is present and consents—the agreement of any other occupant isn’t needed. For example, if college students Alex and Brian share an apartment and the police ask to enter when only Alex is home, his consent is all that’s needed to make their entry legal.

To learn about what happens when there's conflicting consent, see If my roommate tells the cops they can come in, but I tell them they can’t, can they?

One Roommate Consents: Where May the Police Search?

In general, the police may search all parts of the home that the person who gave consent uses. So, they can search any part of the premises the consenting party occupies (such as that person’s private room) and any areas of the home where all roommates or tenants have access. Shared areas generally include places like the living room and kitchen.

Importantly, though, the police generally cannot search the private room or belongings of a person who, either present or not, did not grant consent. To determine whether the police may search a specific part of a home, courts evaluate whether the person who granted consent has access and authority over it. To return to our example of Alex and Brian, the police would not have authority to search Brian’s bedroom, if that room were his alone and not one Alex had use of.

When only one roommate has granted consent for the police to perform a search, courts often look at the relationship and understanding between the roommates to decide how much of the home the police were authorized to examine. For example, searching an entire residence would be justified if the roommates were romantic partners—the assumption is that no areas of the home were off-limits to either partner. But if the residents are simply roommates or cotenants and one doesn’t have permission to use or access another’s bedroom, then that bedroom is off-limits. On the other hand, if Alex and Brian, starving students that they are, can afford only a one-bedroom apartment, then the bedroom and closet that they share means that the consent of one will probably permit the police to search the shared space.

With almost all search issues, the issue is as much how the circumstances reasonably appeared to the police as it is whoactually has access to and uses what in the home.

Private Belongings

The considerations that dictate whether the police may search certain areas of a home also apply to items within the residence. Even if a roommate consents, the police cannot search a closed bag or suitcase of another occupant unless the consenting roommate has access to that item as well. (For a related issue, see Can a host give consent for a search of a guest’s belongings?)

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Tags: Criminal Defense, consent, search, Warrant, legally, attorney, police

When Can the Police Search My Car?

Posted by Chris Morales on Mon, Apr 21, 2014 @ 10:35 AM

The constitution says that you have a right to be free from unreasonable searches of your home, your person, and your car. Car searches rarely involve a search warrant issued.

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Tags: car, Warrant, unreasonable searches, person, constitutional rights, police, home

Lawsuit: Cops forced man to undergo enemas, colonoscopy on an invalid warrant

Posted by Chris Morales on Fri, Nov 08, 2013 @ 12:19 PM

A New Mexico man has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Deming and several Deming Police Officers after they allegedly “subjected him to multiple digital penetrations and three enemas” among other “shockingly invasive medical procedures, all without finding any drugs all on an invalid warrant” his lawyer claimed.

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Tags: custody, drugs, Warrant, traffic citation, police

Los Angeles Robbery leads Supreme Court to reconsider Police Search Laws

Posted by Chris Morales on Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 12:58 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court took up a California case (Fernandez v California 12-7822) on Monday, May 20th in order to decide if police have the right to enter and search a home, over the objections of a suspect who lives in the home, by arresting him and obtaining the roommate’s consent for the entry.

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Tags: consent, robbery, suspect, Warrant, upholding, warrants, Fourth Amendment

When can police arrest a suspect without an arrest warrant?

Posted by Chris Morales on Mon, Jan 14, 2013 @ 04:09 PM

What is a warrantless arrest?

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Tags: Criminal Defense, arrest, Criminal Law, probable cause, Warrant, police, Fourth Amendment, warrantless arrest