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Due to their prevalence in TV and movies, most people have a general understanding of how the arrest and trial processes work. However, portrayed less often are the steps that take place following arrest and prior to trial. In California, these steps include:

  • Booking;
  • Arraignment; and
  • Bail.


After a suspect has been arrested, he or she is transported to central booking for processing. In San Diego County, arrestees are taken either downtown or to Chula Vista. Federal defendants, on the other hand, are transported to the Metropolitan Correction Center. During processing, arrestees are:

  • Photographed;
  • Fingerprinted;
  • Searched; and
  • Placed in a holding cell.


Following arrest and booking, all defendants are brought in front of a judge for an arraignment, which is an arrestee’s initial court appearance. This must occur within 48 hours of an arrest.

During the arraignment, arrestees are:

  • Informed of their charges;
  • Read their rights;
  • Appointed an attorney if needed; and
  • Given the opportunity to plea.

Arraignments are handled by a judge in criminal court. However, if a defendant appears before a lower court judge at the time of his or her arraignment and is charged with a felony, then the case is transferred to the Superior Court for a felony arraignment. When such a transfer is made, the defendant must re-enter his or her plea.


After an arrestee in San Diego has received his or her charges and entered a plea, the court sets a bail amount. In California, bail amounts are established yearly via schedules determined by each county. Bail provides criminal defendants with incentive to appear in court, and it is intended to prevent criminal defendants from fleeing in order to avoid prosecution for their crimes. Bail in California is determined based on the following factors:

  • The defendant’s ties to the community;
  • The seriousness of the charges;
  • The defendant’s criminal record; and
  • The defendant’s risk of flight.

Based on an examination of these factors, an arrestee will either be denied bail, granted bail, or released on his or her own recognizance without having to pay anything. If bail is set, and the defendant is unable to pay the entire amount, then he or she may seek the services of a bail bondsman. Bail bondsmen, for a percentage of the bail amount, pay a defendant’s entire bail, enabling them to be released from custody prior to trial.

San Diego Criminal Defense Attorneys

Due to the potential consequences involved, it is important that anyone who is arrested in San Diego, California, seek the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. At the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, our experienced criminal defense attorneys provide all of our clients with expert legal guidance in order to achieve the most favorable results possible. The talent and experience of our San Diego, California, attorneys ensure that our clients’ cases are handled expertly and with the utmost care. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges of any kind in California, please contact us immediately for a free consultation.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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