The Arrest Process: A Guide to Your Rights in North Carolina

If you think there’s no chance you’ll ever get arrested – think again! Statistics show that 80 percent of people arrested in the United States are accused of minor things, like disorderly conduct or other nuisance offenses. 

No one ever wants to think about having a brush with the law. However, if you find yourself in this situation, what you do next is critical.

Understanding what happens when you get arrested can help you stay calm and protect your rights. Here’s everything you need to know.

Two Arrest Scenarios

First, there are two different scenarios that can lead to your arrest. The first occurs when you’re caught in the act of committing a crime or the police have a reasonable suspicion that you’ve committed, or are going to commit, a crime. An example would be if you’re pulled over and the officer determines that you’re driving under the influence.

The second scenario occurs when an investigation of a crime results in police believing you’re the offender. This can often take anywhere from a few days to several months. In this case, you’ll often have a bit more notice that the arrest is coming, especially if the police have already questioned you.

When this happens, a judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. The police may come pick you up or you’ll be asked to turn yourself in to the police department.

What Happens When You Get Arrested? Important Things to Know

No matter which of the scenarios leads to your arrest, the process that follows is fairly similar. Let’s take a look at what to expect during the initial arrest, what happens when you arrive at the police department, and how and when you’ll be released. 

Initial Arrest

When you’re first arrested, expect the police to handcuff you. They’ll tell you that you’re under arrest and read you the Miranda Warning.

This is to ensure that you understand your rights, which include the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. It also lets you know that if you choose to speak, anything you say can and will be used against you, and that if you can’t afford an attorney, one will be provided to you.

Take this advice to heart! While you should answer basic questions about your identity, do not say anything else. You can waive your Miranda Rights and answer questions if you want, but this is rarely a good idea.

While they’re reading your rights, the police may also pat you down. The purpose of this is to ensure you don’t have any concealed weapons or illegal objects (like drug paraphernalia) on you. Note that it’s illegal in the state of North Carolina for the police to search you unless you are actually under arrest.

Finally, they’ll place you in the back of their police vehicle.

There’s also a chance they may ask for permission to search your vehicle or your home (depending on where you’re at when the arrest occurs). Note that there are two scenarios where they don’t have to get your permission. This includes:

  • When a search warrant is issued as part of an investigation
  • If they have probable cause to believe there is evidence of criminal activity in the area they want to search

Note that if the police ask for your permission, this almost always means that the scenarios above don’t apply. If you say that you don’t consent, they can’t legally perform the search.

Police Intake

Once you arrive at the police station, the police will search you and take all of your belongings. They’ll give you a piece of paper that lists everything they took so you can get it back after you’re released. If anything they take is connected to the offense, it will be held as evidence.

Then, you’ll have your mugshot photo taken and you’ll be fingerprinted. If you’re being arrested for a felony, you may also have your cheek swabbed so the police can enter your DNA sample into the state or federal database. In some jails, they will take your personal clothing and require you to change into the jail uniform.

You can expect this process to take at least a couple of hours. You’ll have to sit in a holding cell while this all occurs, and then the police will give you the opportunity to call an attorney or family member to let them know about your situation. They may give you more than a single call, but expect the number to be limited.

Finally, the police may interrogate you and record your answers. There’s a good chance that they’ll read you your Miranda Rights one more time before this occurs. Remember that you do not have to answer their questions and you can also stop answering questions at any time and ask for an attorney.


If you weren’t arrested based on a warrant, then the next step is for you to appear before a magistrate for what’s known as a “probable cause hearing.” This will usually occur within 48 hours of your arrest.

There are two outcomes you can expect:

  1. Release on your own recognizance – this means you’re released from jail and won’t have to pay bail. You will, however, need to sign a form promising that you’ll return to court.
  2. Bond will be set – in this case, you’ll need to stay in jail until someone can post bail for you.

In most cases, they’ll get a bail bond. This allows them to only pay 15 percent of the bail amount upfront. Once the bail is posted, you’ll be released from jail.

If you don’t show up for court, the bail bondsman will keep the 15 percent deposit. A judge will issue a warrant for your arrest and you’ll also have to pay the full bail amount to the courts.

Let Us Take Care of Your Bail Bond Needs

Now that you understand what happens when you get arrested, you can see how important it is to have access to a bail bondsman you can trust. We encourage you to contact us any time you or a loved one finds yourself in need. We’re available 24 hours a day and will help you navigate your way through the entire process.