California Arrest and Booking Process

Taken to Jail When Someone is Arrested

When someone is arrested in California, they will be taken to a local law enforcement station for processing and booking. They may be taken to a local police department or sheriff’s station where there is a holding facility or jail.

The California booking process can take a considerable amount of time, depending on the size of the jail and how busy the station may be.

Sometimes booking is done within an hour, sometimes several hours. Generally, the larger the jail, the longer the booking process takes.

For example, large county jails, like the Men’s Central Jail or Santa Ana Jail, may take up to or in excess of 12 hours for processing an
arrestee into the system.

For example, large county jails, like the Men’s Central Jail or Santa Ana Jail, may take up to or in excess of 12 hours for processing an arrestee into the system. These two jails are particularly significant because arrestees in Los Angeles County and Orange County will likely be taken or transferred to these jails if they are not bailed out of smaller jails quickly. I provide bail bonds for all California jails including Santa Ana bail bonds and Men’s Central Jail bail bonds.

View our diagram of what to do when someone is arrested.

Tonya Page

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Booking and Processing

The detainee will be searched for weapons, drugs and the like. Their personal belongings will be cataloged and retained by the jailer.

During their time in jail the detainee will not have access to their money, credit cards, cell phones, etc.

The booking process consists of fingerprinting, background check, checking for warrants and processing into the computer system.

As you know computers are an integral part of our society. The local jurisdiction will have it’s own computer system. There is also a nationwide criminal computer system that needs to be cross referenced and updated for each arrest.

When Someone in Jail Calls You

Some jail cells have a payphone for use often including the bail section of the yellow pages.

Otherwise, arrestees will be given phone access at the jailer’s convenience.

Inmates cannot receive phone calls or messages.

If someone calls you from jail, please get as much information from them as possible. You will want to know what jail they are in, what they have been arrested for, if they want to be bailed out and if there are personal matters that need to be addressed for them, for example, children, pets, and job situations.

Jail Processing and Setting Bail

The work involved on the part of the jail staff to get the individual processed is considerable. The entire process can be time consuming and frustrating.

In smaller jails the arrest processing can be done within an hour, some of the larger jails can 12 hours or more.

When someone is arrested on the weekend, at night, during turbulent times, meal times or shift changes, booking can be expected to take longer. The first goal of the jail is to keep everyone safe.

If the defendant is eligible for bail, it will be set during the booking process.

The computer systems need to update after the jailer has done all of this work. A bail bond cannot be completed until physical and computer processing has been complete. After they have been booked, the defendant has several options for release. However, you can begin working with a bondsman immediately after arrest. Some jails will even book faster knowing that a bond will be processed because they need the jail space.

After the individual has been booked, they may be released from jail on bail bond or otherwise or they may be held until arraignment if no bail
is posted. Arraignment generally takes place within three business days. For example, someone arrested on Thursday night would generally be
arraigned on the following Monday.

For more detailed California bail bond information, please visit my How the Bail Process Works and Cost of Bail pages.


“I wanted to let you know what excellent service your agents provided my daughter and myself. They were kind and efficient and made a very distressful situation a little easier to deal with. From the time I contacted your office (at 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning), until Mark was able to post the bond, everyone was professional, yet caring. My daughter was finally released from the Van Nuys jail at 6:15 p.m. During the entire process, Mark communicated and updated me frequently throughout the day. He even called me to make sure that everything had gone smoothly after he posted the bond.”Natalie in Ventura County
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