Arrest, Booking, Criminal Charges & Expungement Processes

  1. This article will explain the process of what criminal charges are, how they are filed and how to remove them.

    What is an Arrest?

    If a person is reasonably suspected of committing a crime, he or she may be arrested by a police officer. A crime can be of a minor (misdemeanor) or serious (felony) nature. Misdemeanors are crimes that are usually punished by a monetary fine and/or up to one year or less in prison. The police work with a prosecutor (also known as a “district attorney”) and criminal charges may be brought by a prosecutor after an appropriate investigation.

    A suspect of a crime might be notified by the police and request that the suspect come to the police station voluntarily. The police may also obtain a search and arrest warrant for the suspect. When the police arrest the suspect, the police read the person a series of statements called a “Miranda Warning", which advise a criminal suspect of their "Miranda Rights." The Miranda Warning informs the suspect of the following: (a) he or she has the right to remain silent and not make statements against personal interests, anything said can be used in a court of law, the right to have a criminal defense attorney present during police questioning as well as other rights and information.

    What is Booking?

    The “booking” process occurs after an arrest. During booking, the police will collect identification information from the suspect, such as his or her name, present address, telephone number, driver’s license number and any other relevant information. The police will also perform a search for any outstanding warrants, take fingerprints of the suspect and also a photograph (frequently referred to as a “mug shot.”) The physical condition of the suspect will be noted, a search of the suspect may occur and evidence may be collected.

    The Filing of Criminal Charges

    A criminal charge is a written accusation that someone is suspected of committing a crime. Simply because there is a charge and an arrest does not mean that criminal charges will automatically be filed against a suspect. The prosecutor reviews all the evidence obtained and makes a decision whether criminal charges should be filed and what charges would be appropriate.

    If you’ve been arrested for a crime, it is highly advisable to obtain legal advice and representation from a criminal defense attorney. The benefits are significant. A criminal defense attorney can advise you how to handle the situation and speak with the prosecutor before any charges have been filed. If the charges are weak, a experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to convince a prosecutor to drop criminal charges before they are filed.

    Both the police and the victim of a crime may file a criminal charge. It is most common that the victim of a crime will file a complaint with the local police department. The victim will go to the police station which is responsible to police the area or “jurisdiction” where the crime took place. If the police decide that the case is not worth pursuing, it is possible to take the complaint directly to the prosecutor’s office. It will then be within the prosecutor’s discretion whether to file criminal charges against the suspect.

    Expungement: Removing Criminal Charges

    While not all criminal charges will proceed to a trial, most criminal charges can still show up on a criminal history report. If a criminal charge is eventually dropped or the case is dismissed, it is a good idea to ensure that any criminal charges are removed from your criminal record. Even if you have a criminal conviction, it is possible that the charges can be removed from your criminal record as well. "Expungement" is the process of removing criminal charges from your record.

    It is very important any record of an arrest is removed, destroyed, expunged or sealed if criminal charges are dismissed or dropped. The expungement process varies from state to state. Many employers will run criminal background checks on prospective employees and a positive result could significantly affect the chances of getting a job.

    Some states operate a policy of automatically expunging records of arrest if the charges are dropped. It is important to verify that there is nothing appearing on your record after all charges have been dropped.
    Criminal Law & Procedure:
    Pretrial Procedure

    Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.


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