The California Booking Process


What happens after a defendant has been arrested?

Defendants (also known as arrestees) are transferred to an inmate reception center or police station and brought into a booking room by the arresting Deputy. The defendant is searched again before handcuffs are removed. The defendant’s belongings are inventoried and the interview process begins.

All persons arrested and brought to a police station or detention center are “booked” into a local database. The purpose of the booking process is to establish the true identity of the defendant, find if the person is wanted for outstanding warrants elsewhere in the state or nation, document a “history” of the arrest (in the local and the FBI’s national database), and to determine whether or not the person can be released on his/her own recognizance or on cash bail. Those not eligible for bail/release are also evaluated for their initial security classification and cell assignment. The booking process also identifies any special medical, mental health or dietary needs that might exist.

The arrestee is finger printed and a photo is taken with a video imaging system.
All defendants are fingerprinted with automated fingerprint equipment. Inmates are also photographed with a video booking system In some instances a breath alcohol test is also administered.
The fingerprinting system sends copies of fingerprints to the Department of Justice in a matter of seconds (as opposed to the old system using the US mail). This allows rapid identification of the arrestee, which is especially useful when an arrestee’s identity is in question. Please note it may take several hours for the DOJ to return results. The image taken of the defendant is shared with other law enforcement agencies and can be used to identify individuals in “video lineups” and investigations by those agencies.

Housing is a separate area of the detention center. While most persons booked into the detention center are immediately released on bail or recognizance release, some are lodged. Those who are lodged are further processed into the detention center.

All Inmates are strip searched before being issued mandated inmate clothing. Strip searches are always conducted by Deputies of the same sex as the inmate. A shower is also located in the changing room and may be used by the inmate prior to dressing in issued clothes. At times inmates are booked in who have been homeless, or engaged in activities that contaminated their clothing, or otherwise need to shower before dressing in clean clothes.

Personal clothing is inventoried and placed in storage. Inmates who are carrying cash at the time of booking, have their money placed in an “trust account.” The money can be used to purchase items from the detention center.

Inmates enter a housing area. Inmates are initially classified as to their security level and cell assignment before being moved into the housing area. Depending on the facility, all inmates are initially placed in a single occupancy, high security cell.