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Charged Versus Arrested


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 attorney will explain the charges and learn your side of the story and help you respond to the charges appropriately.


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