When someone is arrested and taken to jail their first concern is how they can get out. Several things must happen before the authorities release an individual from jail. The process typically involves a “booking” process and a bail hearing that determines whether the person arrested may be released pending trial and set the bail amount. Once the accused has “posted bail” themselves or through a bail bond agent they are released.
An arrest occurs when a person has been taken into police custody and is no longer free to leave or move about. When and how an arrest takes place is very important. Obviously, someone who has been handcuffed and read their rights knows they have been arrested, but not everyone who is arrested is handcuffed or explicitly told that they are under arrest. Whether or not the proper procedure is followed may determine the admissibility of evidence or even result in the case being dropped.
After an arrest a police officer will begin the “booking” process. This is an administrative process in which the police collect the suspect’s personal information and organize evidence relating to the alleged crime. The officer will record evidence, observations and statements about the alleged crime, fingerprint and photograph the suspect, conduct a criminal background check, collect the suspect’s personal property for storage until release, and place the suspect in a holding cell.
The purpose of bail is to ensure that an individual accused of a crime that is released into the community will willingly return for future court hearings and not commit new crimes, intimidate victims and witnesses, or flee to another jurisdiction. Those accused of minor crimes may simply be cited and released, but all others arrested and charged with crimes will have an opportunity to argue for their release at a bail hearing. At the bail hearing a judge or magistrate examines the alleged crime, the accused’s criminal background, and connections within the community, financial resources, and length of residence in order to determine whether releasing the suspect would pose a threat to the safety of the community and whether the suspect is likely to appear at future hearings. Someone who poses a threat to the community may be held without bail. Likewise, someone who is a flight risk may be held without bail. Concerns about these and other factors also impact the amount of bail required. More serious crimes typically result in a higher bail amount. Wealthy individuals may also face higher bail amounts to ensure that the bond represents a significant amount to the party paying. On the other hand, if the alleged crime is not serious, the accused can show evidence that they pose no risk to the community, and are likely to appear at future court hearings they may be released “on personal recognizance” without having to post bail. Other conditions may be placed upon release including limits on travel, court ordered drug and alcohol abstinence or testing, periodic checks by an authority and restrictions on contact with victims or witnesses.
Criminal Justice System
The criminal justice system is comprised of three major institutions which process a case from inception, through trial, to punishment. A case begins with law enforcement officials, who investigate a crime and gather evidence to identify and use against the presumed perpetrator. The case continues with the court system, which weighs the evidence to determine if the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If so, the corrections system will use the means at their disposal, namely incarceration and probation, to punish and correct the behavior of the offender. Throughout each stage of the process, constitutional protections exist to ensure that the rights of the accused and convicted are respected. These protections balance the need of the criminal justice system to investigate and prosecute criminals with the fundamental rights of the accused (who are presumed innocent). The major restriction on the investigative stage of a case is the prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. This prevents officers from searching a suspect or his home without a warrant. There are exceptions for extenuating circumstances, such as when an officer is in “hot pursuit” of a suspect or where evidence might be destroyed, such as when a suspected drug dealer runs into a restroom. Much like the law enforcement stage of a case, there are dozens of restrictions on the court’s ability to prosecute a case, including the right to confront one’s accusers, the right against incriminating one’s self, the right to counsel, and the right to a jury trial. The primary purpose of all of these protections is to ensure a fair trial for the accused. The defendant has a right to be represented by either an attorney of their choosing, or, if they cannot afford one, court-appointed counsel. The jury must be a fair cross-section of the community, which in most cases will not lead to a jury composed of a single race or gender. If the defendant is convicted and the charges merit jail time, they will be sent to the corrections system for punishment. Typically, this involves probation, incarceration, or both. Probation can be either supervised or unsupervised. Supervised probation requires the offender to check in regularly with an officer to ensure compliance with the terms of his probation. Unsupervised probation means that a person only faces jail time or other punishment if they run further afoul of the law. Incarceration is also a common outcome of criminal trials, especially in more serious cases. The convict is housed in either jail or prison. Jails are usually located in each county and are for less serious offenses. Jail terms usually do not exceed one year. Prison terms, on the other hand, are usually for longer than a year and almost always involve serious felony offenses. The primary constraint on abuses in the correctional system is the right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment. There are many ways in which this prohibition has come into play in our corrections system, including jail overcrowding, improper medical care, and in physical abuses at the hands of corrections officers. Though violations do occur, they usually will not result in a suspension of one’s sentence. Rather, the remedy is typically injunctive relief and/or monetary damages obtained via a civil rights lawsuit. If you’ve been arrested, are awaiting arraignment, or have a trial date coming up, it isn’t too late to access professional assistance.
At the most basic level, the fundamental difference between jail and prison is the length of stay for inmates. Think short-term and long-term. Jails are usually run by local law enforcement and/or local government agencies, and are designed to hold inmates awaiting trial or serving a short sentence. Often “short” is designated as a misdemeanor conviction versus a felony, so in some instances where misdemeanor sentences are run consecutively, one may spend more than a year in jail. Jails often operate work release programs and boot camps, and some offer educational, substance abuse, and vocational programs. While many of these programs are designed to help the inmates change their lives and improve themselves so they stand a better chance of avoiding a return visit, they also have the added benefit of keeping the inmates occupied and less likely to cause problems for jailers. Prisons, on the other hand, are typically operated by either a state government or the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). These are designed to hold individuals convicted of more serious crimes, typically any felony. Prisons offer different programs to inmates depending on the inmate’s level of custody (i.e., minimum, medium, or maximum security, solitary confinement, etc.).
Minimum and medium security programs include halfway houses, work release programs, and community restitution centers. Typically those who are eligible for such programs are nearing the end of their prison terms. Because prisons are designed for long-term incarceration, they are better developed for the living needs of their populations. Jails, on the other hand, tend to have more transient populations and less well-developed facilities. As a result, many inmates prefer their stays in prison given the more regular life, the greater availability of programs, and better facilities. Indeed, many repeat offenders will ask for prison time rather than time in jail followed by probation if given the option. Some inmates complain that jail, given its constant flow of people that can often interfere with an inmate’s ability to sleep, eat on a regular schedule, or participate in exercise. Some jails also suffer from budget shortages that lead to lower quality or inadequate food. These issues often lead to claims of violations of the inmate’s right against cruel and unusual punishment. However, such claims are rarely, if ever, successful. In either system, the inmate has a right to visitation. The inmate will also have the basic rights of any prisoner. These include the right to be treated humanely, not suffer cruel and unusual punishment, be free from sexual crimes or harassment, a right of access to the courts, a right to medical care, and a right to not suffer racial discrimination. Although an inmate’s rights are abridged compared to other citizens given their status as inmates, they also still have limited rights to free speech, possession of property, and other basic human rights. If you or someone you know is facing time behind bars, you should speak with an attorney. Not only may a lawyer be able to help you avoid jail or prison time all together, they may be able to help minimize the time spent their if a conviction is unavoidable.
Rights of Inmates
Even the most chronic or hardened inmates have basic rights that are protected by the U.S. Constitution. If you are facing incarceration, or if you have a family member or friend who is in prison or jail, you should know about inmates’ rights.
The Right to Humane Facilities and Conditions
Pre-trial detainee must be housed in humane facilities; they cannot be “punished” or treated as guilty while they await trial. Inmates also have the right to be free, under the Eighth Amendment of “cruel and unusual” punishment; the term noted by the Supreme Court is any punishment that can be considered inhumane treatment or that violates the basic concept of a person’s dignity may be found to be cruel and unusual.
The Right to be Free from Sexual Crime
An inmate cannot be subjected to sexual crimes including sexual harassment. The Prison Rape Elimination Act protects prisoners.
The Right to be Free from Racial Segregation
Inmates cannot be racial segregated in prisons, except where necessary for preserving discipline and prison security.
The Right to Express Complaints
Inmates can complain about prison conditions and have a right of access to the courts to air these complaints.
The Right to Assert ADA Rights
Disabled prisoners are entitled to assert their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure that they are allowed access to prison programs/ facilities that they are qualified and able to participate in.
The Right to Medical Care/Attention
Inmates are entitled to medical care and attention as needed to treat both short-term conditions and long-term illnesses. The medical care provided must be “adequate.”
The Right to Appropriate Mental Health Care
Inmates who need mental health care are entitled to receive that treatment in a manner that is appropriate under the circumstances. The treatment must be “adequate.”
The Right to a Hearing
Inmates are entitled to a hearing if they are to be moved to a mental health facility. However, an inmate is not always entitled to a hearing if he or she is being moved between two similar facilities. A mentally ill inmate is not entitled to a full-blown hearing before the government may force him or her to take anti-psychotic drugs against his or her will. It is sufficient if there is an administrative hearing before independent medical professionals.
Limitations on Inmates’ Rights
Inmates retain only those First Amendment rights, such as freedom of speech, which are not inconsistent with their status as inmates and which are in keeping with the legitimate objectives of the penal corrections system, such as preservation of order, discipline, and security. In this regard, prison officials are entitled to open mail directed to inmates to ensure that it does not contain any illegal items or weapons, but may not censor portions of correspondence which they find merely inflammatory or rude. Inmates are entitled, under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution, to be free from unauthorized and intentional deprivation of their personal property by prison officials. However, Inmates do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their prison cells and are not protected from “shakedowns,” or searches of their cells to look for weapons, drugs, or other contraband.
Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA)
Under the PLRA:
• Prisoners must exhaust internal prison grievance procedures before they file suit in federal court.
• Prisoners must pay their own court filing fees, either in one payment or in a series of monthly installments.
• Courts have the right to dismiss any prisoner’s lawsuit which they find to be either “frivolous,” “malicious” or stating an improper claim. Each time a court makes this determination, the case can be thrown out of court and the prisoner can have a “strike” issued against them. Once the inmate receives three “strikes,” they can no longer file another lawsuit unless they pay the entire court filing fee up front.
• Prisoners cannot file a claim for mental or emotional injury unless they can show that they also suffered a physical injury.
• Prisoners risk losing credit for good time if a judge decides that a lawsuit was filed for the purpose of harassment, that the inmate lied, or that the inmate presented false information.
Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer
It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
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