The obvious (and, frankly, most important) answer is that you call a good Arkansas Criminal Defense Attorney. You could call our firm, for example. But you already knew that.
But assuming you’ve done that, you still might like to know what happens when you get arrested in Arkansas. To make a long story short: It depends on the crime.
If the crime is relatively minor, you may simply be issued a citation after the arrest. This is always at the officer’s discretion. That citation gives you a few important pieces of information. First, it will tell you why you were arrested. (You may ultimately be charged with something different than what you were arrested for, by the way.) It will also tell you when your “plea and arraignment” will be held.
Aside: Reggie Koch (a local lawyer) recently interviewed Little Rock District Court Judge Vic Fleming on what a plea and arraignment entails.
A plea and arraignment is two separate things. The “arraignment” part is an opportunity for you to be told by a judge what the charges are against you. The plea part, as you might have guessed, is an opportunity for you to enter a plea—formally tell the court how you’re going to approach those charges.
In this scenario, you’ll be released without the requirement of posting bail. (You post bail as a way to promise the Court that you’ll come back when you’re supposed to.) You simply go on your merry way.
There’s another situation where you won’t have to post bail for a more serious Arkansas crime, but that is pretty rare. This happens when you’re arrested and the Pulaski County Jail (for instance) is overcrowded and there’s no place for you to go. In this situation, you will be arrested, taken to the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office for processing, and then be released with information about your plea and arraignment.
If the officer thinks that your crime is serious enough and there’s room for you in the Pulaski County Jail, you will be taken there after being arrested. At that time, something called a “schedule bond” will be issued to you. The next morning, you’ll be arraigned.
If you’ve been charged with an Arkansas misdemeanor, you can then decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, you will probably be released and then given a court date for your sentencing. If you plead not guilty, then the prosecutor and your Arkansas Criminal Defense Attorney (again, I know a good one) will conduct a short bond hearing to set your bond.
If you’ve been charged with an Arkansas felony, you will have to enter a plea of not guilty at the district court level. (This is because district courts in Arkansas don’t have “jurisdiction” over felonies—only an Arkansas circuit court can hear felony cases.) Again, there will be a bond hearing in front of the district court judge to determine an appropriate amount for bond. If there is a victim, the judge will issue a no contact order, which simply means that you are not allowed to contact the person. (Yes, a rare moment where something has a legal name that actually describes what it is.)
At this point, you’ll also need to contact a bail bondsman (we can recommend some good ones) to post your bail. Unless, of course, you just happen to like jail.