Being “charged” is the initiating process in which an individual is accused of committing a violation of law. It is basically the part where a person is formally accused. The violation can be anything from a minor traffic infraction, such as speeding to something as serious as murder. Police officers have the authority to file charges independent of a judge or court commissioner. But, there are limitations. Misdemeanors for example must be committed in the presence of a police officer. In certain cases, the police will issues a criminal citation in lieu of arrest. This happens most frequently with minor traffic violation and shoplifting. The individual is still charged with a violation of law, but is not arrested. In certain circumstances, such as with shoplifting – which is a type of theft, a conviction could later result in a period of executed incarceration.
Being arrested is an involuntary loss of liberty in which a police officer takes custody of the individual. Police must comply with regulations in which an arrested person shall be taken before a commissioner within a prescribed period of time for a determination of bond conditions. Certain types of crimes permit the police officer to make discretionary release independent of a commissioner. For example, drunk driving charges, while still quite serious, provide for discretionary release from the police station. Typically, an arrest signifies that the charge is serious and that a conviction could result in a period of executed incarceration.
Being charged also means getting a lawyer! Being accused of a crime means that you now have a problem and you need professional help to navigate the situation. A good criminal defense lawyer will explain the charges and learn your side of the story and help you respond to the charges appropriately.