Process of An Arrest in Atlanta

If a person is being arrested, it is important to have some patience. The jails in the Metro Atlanta area are all over crowded, thus booking takes time. The flipside of that is as soon as the sheriff’s deputies can get the individual processed and let them leave by bail or other means, then that’s one less person they have to feed and house.

Next, it is important to not argue the case with any of the deputies who process the arrest. They did not conduct the investigation, they did not arrest you, and they have nothing to do with it. In fact, defense lawyers encourage those arrested to keep their mouths closed. That is, do not talk to deputies or any other inmates about anything except your name, address, and such information that is required. In fact, when talking with other inmates, do not tell them anything at all because there are people who will use what people say to try to leverage a better deal for themselves.

Most often in the Atlanta area, a person will be afforded an opportunity to use the telephone to call family members, bonding companies, or an Atlanta defense attorney after you have been booked into the jail. This can be anywhere from two to six hours after the initial arrest, but once you are put in the holding cell, you can call the attorney or bondsman and have family members call both for you.

Initial Arrest & Booking

Generally, an arrest occurs when a person has been observed committing a crime by the police. Other times, there’s been an investigation that has led to the arrest and the officers who conduct the arrest have not actually seen the crime. Regardless, the process of arrest tends to be about the same.

In Georgia, anyone who is being arrested will be handcuffed. The policy of all the police departments is to handcuff a person behind his or her back for the officers’ safety. This can be very painful for certain people. If you have any sort of physical disability, arthritis, or other problems, tell the officer. Sometimes they will actually link two sets of handcuffs together to make it a little more comfortable for you, but you can expect to still be handcuffed.

Next, once a person is arrested the officers will transport them to one of the county jails. The city of Atlanta has a jail and a few of the small towns also have jails, but for most of the police departments they use the county jail.

At the county jail, the arresting officer will turn the individual over to the deputies who manage the jail. They will process the person arrested in and ask a few questions about their address, phone number, and other contact information. They will let the individual know at that point if the offense is bailable or whether they will have to wait to see a magistrate. If the offense is bailable, they will eventually put the individual in a room where there are some telephones that can be used to call family or a bondsman.

Learn more about mistakes to avoid during the arrest process.

Non-Bailable Offenses

If the offense is not bailable, they will take the individual in front of a magistrate judge who will make a decision whether to get bail at that time or to reset for a hearing at a later date. That first hearing in front of the magistrate is called a first appearance in most counties. It is simply where an individual goes in front of the magistrate judge where they briefly tell the individual what their charge is and address the subject of bail-ability, or the ability to get bail.

If bail is not set or if the individual cannot make bail, then another court date will be set for several days later. This is typically called a preliminary hearing, however it may also be referred to as a probable cause hearing or a bind over hearing. The purpose of that hearing is for the magistrate judge to listen to the evidence and decide whether there is probable cause for the charge to go forward. This hearing is not a trial, so the prosecution does not have to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Simply put, the judge has to believe that if what the police officer says about the person arrested is true, which is that the individual may have committed a crime for which they have been arrested.

At that hearing, for most offenses, they will also set bond or they would at least hear a discussion about bond and decide whether bond should be set. Certain offenses such as aggravated child molestation, murder, kidnapping with bodily harm, and some other offenses cannot be set by a magistrate judge. The individual arrested must wait until a superior court judge has time for a formal bond hearing, which is usually two to three weeks later.


An arrest is the process by which the police takes an individual into detention so they may answer for crimes. An arraignment is a formal charging by the prosecuting attorney’s office in open court. Often this is confusing because when a person is first arrested, they have been charged by the police, but after that arrest, the police turn the file over to the prosecuting attorney’s office, most often called the District Attorney.

The District Attorney’s Office looks at the paperwork and decides which charges to go forward on. They decide which charges to drop, which charges to add, and which charges to go forward on. Those charges are presented in court to you at your arraignment date. At the arraignment date, the arrested individual has the option of pleading guilty, not guilty, or in some cases no contest. Arraignment is not a trial and witnesses do not have to appear. Instead, arraignment is simply where the individual is notified of the charges as they will go forward in court and they are allowed to enter their first plea, which most often is not guilty.