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The Wilson Law Firm

Virginia’s Criminal Justice System: Being Arrested

An ARREST is commonly thought of as the start to the criminal justice process. There are many definitions of ‘arrest’, but a good working definition is that an arrest is the deprivation of liberty in a significant manner by legal authority. It involves the authority to arrest, the intent to arrest and either actual restraint of the arrestee or a complete surrender by the arrestee to the officer’s authority and intent to arrest.

An arrest can occur with or without an arrest warrant. In some cases police investigate a crime, determine they have probable cause to believe a certain person committed the crime, find that person, take him/her into custody and ask the magistrate to then issue a warrant. In other cases, police obtain an arrest warrant from a magistrate first and then go find the named defendant.

After an arrest, the person is either released on a summons (given a ticket) or taken into custody by police. If you have ever been given a traffic ticket, you may not realize it, but you were arrested and then released on a summons (ticket).

The SUMMONS tells you what you are charged with, the date and time of the incident, and the date and time at which you must appear in court to address the charge. Many people believe that signing a summons is an acknowledgement of guilt, but this is simply not true. Signing the summons does not indicate that you are guilty. By signing the summons you merely agree to appear in court to address the charge. You should always sign the summons, because if you don’t, the police officer will have to take you into custody. If this happens you will be handcuffed and taken before a magistrate.

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