California Arrest Procedures: Booking, Processing and Setting Bail

The California booking process can be a time-consuming ordeal. Much depends on the size of the jail and the amount of traffic running through it. Booking can be accomplished in as little time as an hour and as much as ten or twelve hours.  Arrests over the weekend, nighttime, mealtime and during shift changes can mean longer booking periods. A general rule of thumb is that the larger the jail, the longer the booking process.

 The large county jails, like Men's Central or the Santa Ana Jail, have been known to take even more than 12 hours in processing an arrestee. This is largely due to the fact that these two facilities usually receive those felons who have not been bailed out of the smaller jails quickly.

Booking is a detailed process with several necessary procedures. It first concerns searching for weapons, drugs and other contraband. Personal effects, such as money, credit cards and cell phones are catalogued, removed from the felon and retained by the jailer. The next phase consists of fingerprinting and background checks. All information is processed through a nation-wide database and updated after each arrest.


In keeping with the rights of felons, some jail cells do have a payphone for use, which includes the bail section of the Yellow Pages. It is ultimately the jailer’s decision whether or not to permit the felon to have phone access for other purposes.

It is usually determined during the booking process whether or not a defendant is eligible for bail. A bail bond cannot be issued until all procedures have been completed. At that time, the defendant has several release options. If no bail has been posted, the defendant may be held until arraignment, which usually takes place within two business days of the arrest, but if bail has been posted, he or she may be released.


Many of us will never need this information, but hopefully it is helpful. Unless you are the all-knowing and all-seeing Shadow of golden radio fame, no one ever can say where dark thoughts and even darker paths may take us.


Posted by M Dee Dubroff, on February 27, 2013 at 9:00 AM