If you or a member of your family gets arrested in Harris County, what happens to you depends to a degree on which local police agency makes the arrest. If you don’t bond out, you’ll end up in one of the county jails, but first you’ll be taken to the local jail for the municipality where you are arrested. The basic process is the same across the state, however.
Here are step-by-step details of what you can expect from the moment of arrest.
At the time of your arrest, the police will handcuff you and take you to the local jail. If you’re arrested by the County’s Sheriff Department you’ll most likely be taken first to the main Harris County located at 701 San Jacinto, which can hold more than 9,000 inmates. If you’re arrested by a local law enforcement precinct, however, they will first take you to the local jail, which might be a small one that holds less than 20 prisoners at a time.
Knowing Your Rights
- On Arrest: Police aren’t required to “Mirandi-ize” you on arrest, unless they intend to question you before you are processed. Whether the arresting officer reads you your rights (such as the Miranda warning) or not, however, it’s essential to remember that they are entitled to use against you anything you say while you are in custody. This even applies to a telephone conversation that they overhear, comments you make while you’re in the police vehicle or discussions about the charges once you’re in jail. Even if the officers aren’t near enough to hear you, it’s possible you are being recorded without your knowledge.
- Getting Tested: If your arrest is on suspicion of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), you’ll likely be taken to a testing facility in the jail for a mandatory Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) test.
- Providing Information: The only information you are required by law to provide is your name, address, date of birth and social security number. It serves no purpose to refuse to supply these details, but you don’t need to give anything else until you’ve had a chance to speak with a lawyer.
- Personal Belongings: During processing, the police officer will take away your personal belongings, which will be recorded on a Voucher with a number on it. This Voucher number is needed to reclaim your property, so it’s important to ask for it if you don’t get it before the police move you to another cell or location. You can also take down the officer’s name and the number on his/her shield for reference purposes.
- Evidence: If any of the items in your possession are evidence in your arrest, those will be recorded separately because you won’t be able to reclaim them until after the trial.
- Fingerprinting: Fingerprinting is seldom done for minor violations, but the police will fingerprint you if you’re charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Also, if they need to prove your identity or they think you might be a suspect in other cases, they will need your prints to check for outstanding warrants for your arrest.
- Medical Issues: After processing, the police should ask whether you have any medical issues. If you answer in the affirmative, they’ll take you to a medical doctor for screening. At that time, you should tell the doctor if you are taking any chronic medication.
The Legal Process
Once you’ve been processed, the justice system kicks in and you’ll need to know the legal aspect of being arrested in Harris County and the process it follows:
- Getting a Lawyer: It’s vital that you appoint a Texas criminal defense lawyer who specializes in the charges against you, preferably before you have any conversations with the police officers. You can ask to use the phone to call an attorney, which is usually a collect call from the phones in the jail. Most lawyers are available 24/7, and you can find contact details on their websites. The first meeting with a lawyer is usually free of charge, until you know whether he can take your case or not.
- Making Bail: The purpose of bail is to ensure that you will appear in court for your trial. The amount of bail set is usually based on the type of crime. If the court believes you are reliable, you may be released on your personal recognizance (PR)—although this happens to less than 25% of defendants in the county. If the amount of bail set is too high for you and your family to pay, you can get financial assistance from a bail bond company to help.
- Being Arraigned: In some instances, defendants are able to make bail at one of the smaller outlying jails. If not, or if you aren’t able to pay the amount of bail set, you’ll be brought to one of the Harris County jail for arraignment. If you’re accused of a felony, you’ll appear in front of a magistrate judge. The prosecutor will read the charges filed against you and the judge will set bond according to a schedule. The jails listed below operate around the clock for this purpose.
- 701 San Jacinto and 1200 Baker Street
- 14350 Wallisville Rd, Houston, TX 77049 (713) 455-8050
- 7900 Will Clayton Pkwy, Humble, TX 77338 (281) 446-3252
- 1307 Baker St, Houston, TX 77002 (713) 755-2400
- 1200 Baker St, Houston, TX 77002 (713) 755-7955
- 16715 Clay Rd, Houston, TX 77084 (713) 755-5300
Once you’ve made bail and are out of jail, it’s time to meet with your lawyer and start planning your defense. A skilled Texas criminal defense attorney will be able to identify ways to present a case on your behalf that reduces the charges against you. If that’s not possible, he can work with you to minimize the impact of your conviction and sentencing, get justice for you and protect your reputation and future in the process.
*Image courtesy of harriscountyso.org