What to Do After Being Arrested in San Diego

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Being arrested can leave you feeling scared and vulnerable. If you have suffered an arrest, it is imperative that you understand the legal process and what to expect. You should also reach out to an experienced criminal attorney in San Diego as soon as possible.

Before the Arrest

Before you can be arrested, law-enforcement should conduct a thorough investigation. This investigation can include contacting the suspect. Although you are not under arrest at this point, an officer or detective will want to speak with you regarding the offense you are suspected of. 

Law-enforcement may also seek to obtain a search warrant. Search warrants allow law-enforcement to legally search your home, place of business, or property for evidence. Absent a search warrant, officials will not be able to search these places or items unless you give your express consent or there are exigent circumstances.  . 

You do not have to speak to law-enforcement officials if you do not wish to do so without an attorney present. You also do not have to consent to a search. You should contact a San Diego criminal defense attorney immediately after being contacted by law-enforcement. 

The Arrest Process

If you have reached the point of an arrest, this means police officials believe they have uncovered enough evidence to arrest you. Once you have been arrested, you are no longer considered a suspect and are now a defendant.

While you may have seen arrests where police officials break down the door of a suspect’s home to arrest them, this is not what usually occurs. In most cases, if officials plan to arrest you at home, they need an arrest warrant to give them legal permission to enter your home and arrest you. However, if you are out in public, law-enforcement officers may arrest you without an arrest warrant if they have probable cause to do so. 

Miranda Rights

Most people have undoubtedly heard the Miranda warnings:

 “You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you.”

After reading your rights, the arresting officer will then ask you if you understand your rights as they have been read to you. Although many believe that Miranda warnings must be administered the second the arresting officer places handcuffs on a suspect, this is not true in every case.

The Miranda warnings must be read to you while you are in custody and before any questioning begins, which may be once you’ve already reached the interrogation room. An officer’s failure to read you your rights can result in the inadmissibility of any statements made.

Invoke Your Rights

Before any questioning begins, be sure to verbally and unequivocally let the officer know that you wish to have an attorney present. Telling the police that “maybe I should talk to an attorney” may not be enough to invoke your rights.  Courts oftentime require a very unequivocal invocation.  An example of this is, “I want to talk to my attorney and I refuse to answer any questions.”  Once you invoke your right to an attorney, officers cannot ask you any questions until your attorney is with you.

During your time at the police station, make sure you remain silent until your attorney is present. Also, keep in mind that phone conversations from jail or the police department are not private, as they are all recorded.  Many defensible cases have been ruined because the defendant admitted to guilt while calling family or friends from a jail cell.  

The Booking Process

Once you are in police custody, you will go through the booking process. During this process, you will have your fingerprints and photos taken, and you may be searched. You will also be placed in a holding cell. Remember to continue invoking your right to remain silent.


Your arraignment is your first formal court appearance before a judge. Your arraignment must occur within 48 hours of your arrest, excluding weekends and holidays. During your arraignment, you can expect a judge to:

  • Go over your constitutional rights;
  • Detail the specific charges filed against you;
  • Ask if you wish to enter a plea; and
  • Set, modify, or clear your bail.

A judge sets bail to ensure you will appear for your future court dates. Your judge will take specific details into account when setting your bail, including:

  • The crime itself;
  • Your prior offenses, if any; 
  • Whether you are a danger to the community if released on bail; 
  • Your financial condition; and 
  • Whether they believe you are a flight risk.

Depending on your circumstances, a judge will either set bail or allow you to be released on your own recognizance.  

When to Hire a Defense Attorney

You should hire a San Diego criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. If the police contact you for questioning in connection with a crime, you should not speak to law-enforcement officers without an attorney present. If you are arrested without warning, be sure to invoke your right to have an attorney present and contact one immediately when you can. Your criminal defense attorney will protect your rights and freedom.

The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, is a well respected and decorated criminal defense firm located in San Diego, California. Our team is thoroughly experienced in the criminal process, having collectively participated in over 100 jury trials. Additionally, attorney Kerry L. Armstrong is a criminal law specialist certified by the State Bar of California. 

We are passionate about offering top-quality legal representation when you need it most. We offer free and confidential case evaluations. Contact us today, and let’s discuss your case.

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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