An Overview of the Alabama Arrest Process

Getting arrested in Alabama is a frightening experience. As with anything in life, however, the more you know about what is going to happen, the easier it is to deal with and the less frightening it will be. While the specifics of a case will vary quite a bit based on the charges and other circumstances, the basic arrest process is going to be very similar.

The Initial Arrest

Everything will really start with the initial arrest, which is where you are taken into custody by the police. This can happen either when they suspect they have caught you in the act of committing a crime (for example, with a DUI), when they are serving a warrant, or when you turn yourself in. In all cases, they will read you your Miranda rights, put you in handcuffs, and bring you to the jail or police station.


Once at the police station, you will have your fingerprints taken, your mugshot taken, and brought to a jail cell. You will stay in jail until your arraignment, which will typically take place on the next business day.


The arraignment is when you first go in front of a judge. This is where you are informed on the specific charges against you, and how much your bail will be (if you are eligible for it). In addition, you’ll be informed of the various rights that you have during the process, including the right to ask for a preliminary hearing if there is a felony charge.

Preliminary Hearing

In Alabama, those charged with a felony can ask for a preliminary hearing, which is when the state must present their evidence in the case. The judge will then determine if that evidence is sufficient to move forward with the charges. They can either allow the case to proceed, throw it out due to a lack of evidence, or determine that the charges should be reduced to misdemeanor charges.


Your trial will be where your attorney makes an argument on why you should be found not guilty (or the case should be thrown out) and the prosecuting attorney attempts to show your guilt. The trial can last anywhere from under an hour to several weeks, or even longer. At the end of the trial, the judge or the jury will hand down the judgment on whether you are found guilty or not guilty. If you are found guilty, the judge will determine the penalties involved.

Plea Bargains

It is important to note that most cases don’t actually go through all of these steps. This is because there is an option for plea bargaining where you and your attorney will negotiate with the prosecuting attorney to come up with an agreement that both parties can live with. This often involves a lesser charge in exchange for a guilty plea. While not a good idea in every circumstance, it is always smart to consider your options. Please contact us no matter what stage in the arrest process you are in so you can get the representation you need.

John M. Totten