Nuts & Bolts #1: So you (or a Friend) Have been Arrested. Now What?

The real-life criminal process matters because of the tangible effects it has on people’s lives. The person arrested or charged. Their families. Their workplaces, businesses, teams, colleagues, and more. One unplanned night (or longer) in jail can and does derail many lives.

So…. what happens when you or a loved one, friend, etc. are arrested in Wyoming?

First, what happens to you. You are going to be handcuffed and placed in a police vehicle to be transported to the local detention center. During the ride, the officer or officers may engage you in conversation. Please be aware the entire ride is being recorded–do not say anything you would not want the jury in your case to hear later.

You will arrive at the detention center. The officer will escort your from the vehicle through a secure entry into the detention center. Heavy doors and electronic buzzing.

Then, you will be checked in. The officer will collect biographical information from you such as your mailing address, date of birth, Social Security number, medications you are prescribed, medical conditions that the officer and detention center must know about, etc.

Please note: if your immigration status in the United States is unverified, undocumented, or questionable, the officer may use your answers to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In some jurisdictions, local authorities have arrangements with ICE to allow them to interview you regarding your immigration status while you are detained post-arrest.

After your intake interview is completed (or during it), the interviewing officer or another officer will pat you down to be sure you have not brought in any dangerous items, weapons, drugs, or other contraband. (CAUTION: you can be charged with attempting to bring controlled substances into a prison, jail, etc. if you have drugs on you when you are arrested and you do not tell the arresting officer before you are taken to jail. While you certainly did not plan to bring your stuff into a detention center, you can still be charged for doing so even unwittingly. I know this is frustrating, but it is the law.)

You will then be taken to be photographed and have your fingerprints taken.

Then, at long last, you will be taken to a holding cell.

Now, if you were arrested for DUI, the arresting officer will/should endeavor to secure a sample of your breath, blood, or urine to determine your BAC. Check out this separate post on that subject.

Second, what happens to your stuff.

Where you are arrested matters. If you are arrested following a traffic stop on the side of the highway in a location where your car cannot be legally parked and left, your car will be towed and impounded.

If you were arrested for a drug charge, law enforcement will search and extract everything inside your vehicle following your arrest. All of your stuff, in every crevice in your car, will be removed, identified, catalogued, and stored as evidence. This search is completely legal and constitutional. That does not mean you can’t fight your case in other ways. There are plenty of constitutional tools to challenge the search based on what led to your arrest – so don’t sweat it; just know that law enforcement is going to find out what you had in the car.

Your personal effects. All of the items on your person will be removed, identified, catalogued, and stored at the detention center. However, it is not uncommon for some personal items to go missing such as knives, cash, jewelry, etc. While most people do not plan to get arrested, if you’re up to no good, it is a good idea to keep your pants, jacket, and shirt pockets as empty as possible. Or at least, do not have anything on you that you’re not prepared to lose.

Third, release from detention. In Wyoming, you must be taken before a judge to set bond and/or be arraigned within seventy-two (72) hours of your detention. In Natrona County on a weekday, if you do not bond out overnight, you will be taken before a judge at 2pm the next day. In most cases, you will be able to seek pretrial release after paying bond, having a bail bondsperson post your bond, or obtained an own recognizance (OR) or personal recognizance (PR) bond. However, in some serious cases, your bond will be unaffordable or, in capital cases, denied altogether.

I will cover the details of initial appearances, bond, bond conditions, and so forth in other posts.

Unfortunately, when you leave the detention center after being arrested, you will not be given a lot of necessary paperwork. Do not worry. Your attorney (or you) can get the necessary paperwork from the Court or the prosecuting attorney. It just takes a few phone calls and some patience.

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