How do I get out of jail after I’ve been arrested?

Typically, when you are arrested, the police have 48 hours to charge you with a crime otherwise they must release you. Several things can happen after you are arrested: (1) you are charged with a crime and a bail amount is set; (2) you are charged with a crime and bail is denied; (3) you are determined to not be a suspect and are released; or (4) you are a suspect but are released pending further investigation. If bail is set, you can either post cash bail or go through a bail bondsman to secure your release. If both options are unavailable, you will eventually be brought to court for your initial appearance/arraignment. At this first court appearance, you or your attorney can ask the judge to release you. Whether the judge releases you depends on certain factors such as the nature of the crime, criminal record, history of not appearing to court, whether you are a flight risk, etc.

What is bail vs. bond?

For most people who are arrested and charged with a crime, a bail amount is set within 48 hours after they are arrested. The bail amount varies depending on certain factors like the crime charged and the person’s criminal record. Bail must be posted in cash. If you cannot afford the cash bail, you can contact a bail bondsman to post a bail bond on your behalf, however, the fee for this service is typically 10% of the bail amount and the bail bondsman may also ask for other collateral. The difference between posting cash bail or bond is that any cash bail you post can be returned to you at the conclusion of your case, however, the fee paid to the bail bondsman is not returned to you.

What do I do if I am accused of a crime?

It is always best to consult a criminal defense lawyer as early as possible if you suspect you will be charged with a crime or questioned by the police regarding criminal activity. Some cases are resolved prior to the filing of any criminal charges with the police just closing their files, because the evidence of a crime is simply insufficient. However, many people have been falsely accused and charged with serious crimes such as rape, domestic violence, drug possession, etc. If you or a loved one is accused of a crime or part of a criminal investigation, do not wait until you are charged with a crime to consult an attorney.

I was arrested but not charged with a crime, do I have a criminal record?

The answer is Yes and No. Technically you have never been charged or convicted with a crime so you do not have a criminal record. However, because you were arrested, your mug shot and finger prints are on record with the State’s law enforcement agencies and they are not automatically erased. You will have to file an official expungement request with the State of Hawaii Attorney General’s Office.

What is an expungement?

An expungement is an official request to the State of Hawaii to erase your criminal record. There are many criteria you must meet before qualifying for an expungement, most notably, you cannot have been convicted of the crime you wish to expunge. If you were arrested but either never charged with a crime or had the case dismissed, there will still be a criminal record with your mug shot and fingerprints until you file an official expungement. If you were convicted of the crime you wish to expunge you do not qualify for an expungement, however, you may still qualify for relief through a governor’s pardon.

Do the police have to tell me what I’m arrested for?

The police have the right to arrest you if they have a warrant for your arrest issued by a court or if they have probable cause to believe you have committed a crime. They technically do not have to inform you of what you are being arrested for if they have probable cause for your arrest. Most officers will tell you what you are being arrested for before taking you to the station to be processed.

I was a visitor to Hawaii and don’t live in the State, do I have to be present at my court date?

If you do not reside in Hawaii but were arrested or charged with a crime while visiting, you should contact a Hawaii attorney right away to ensure that you have representation at your next court date. There are ways to resolve most cases without you needing to spend the money to fly back to Hawaii, but you need an attorney to physically appear at the court hearings otherwise a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest.

Can I get surveillance video from the city traffic cameras to prove my case?

Generally, No. The City and County of Honolulu does not record or store footage from traffic cameras on city streets. They are only used to live stream traffic footage. The best way to get video of the scene of the incident is to immediately start filming after the traffic stop and to check if there are any businesses in the area that have surveillance cameras.

What should I do if I am arrested and questioned by the police?

The first thing you should always do is to behave respectfully towards the police officer. It will only make your situation worse if you are disrespectful and combative. The extent of your rights depends upon the circumstances under which you are questioned. It is not advisable to say anything to the police that could incriminate you before you consult with an attorney. Remember that anything you say to the authorities can be used against you. If the police ask you questions, you have a right to remain silent unless and until you have had an opportunity to consult with an attorney. You similarly have a right to refuse to any illegal searches. Typically, the police do not have a right to search you, your car or your home without a warrant. If you are arrested by the police do not resist arrest or try to run from the police even if you believe you did nothing wrong-it will only make your situation worse. Your cooperation with police at the time of your arrest, or lack thereof, can and will be used against you even if you are innocent and has the potential to play a large role in the outcome of your case down the road.

When can the police search my person, home, or car?

It depends. Generally, a search warrant supported by probable cause and authorized by a judge is required before a search can be conducted. Probable cause is evidence which would cause a reasonable person to conclude that a crime has been committed. There are however, numerous exceptions to the search warrant requirement.

The person that called the police does not want to prosecute. Does that mean the case will be dropped?

Usually not. It’s not uncommon for a complainant to make an initial report and then later decide not to prosecute. Complainants sometimes change their mind about pressing charges because the initial allegations were false or inaccurate, however, sometimes the complainant doesn’t want to proceed with the case because they are intimidated or scared into dropping the charges. Aware of these variables, it is the Government that ultimately decides whether or not prosecute, not the complainant.

I am not a U.S. citizen. Will my arrest affect my immigration status?

A criminal conviction can affect your immigration status and eventually lead to deportation proceedings. The INS guidelines are complex and it necessary to confer with an immigration attorney to for sufficient advice.

What happens at the first court hearing after charges are filed?

Arraignment is usually the first court proceeding at which you will be advised of the charges filed against you. In most instances you will enter a “Not Guilty” plea to all charges. At the arraignment, you will usually not have the police reports or any other evidence the government has against you, therefore, it is not advisable to enter a guilty or no contest plea before consulting and attorney and reviewing all the evidence against you. If you are out on bail, you will usually remain out of custody unless the prosecutor successfully demonstrates to the court that you are a flight risk or pose an imminent danger to the community.

What is the role of the prosecutor?

The prosecutor is the attorney who represents the government in a case against a criminal defendant. It is the prosecutor’s office that decides what whether to charge a person with a crime and with what charges.

What is a grand jury?

A grand jury is a group of individuals selected from the community to hear evidence and decide whether the Government has sufficient evidence to indict a suspect, continuing the criminal proceedings against the accused. The grand jury, however, does not make a decision about the guilt or the innocence of the accused.

What is probation?

Probation is a form of sentencing imposed by a judge as an alternative to prison. It allows an individual to stay in the community instead of prison, as long as he or she complies with certain conditions such as regularly reporting to a probation officer, not committing further crimes, and refraining from drugs and alcohol.

What is a petty misdemeanor?

In Hawaii, a petty misdemeanor is a criminal offense punishable by up to thirty days in jail and a $1,000 fine. If you are convicted of a petty misdemeanor it will be revealed on your criminal record.

What is a misdemeanor?

In Hawaii, a misdemeanor is a criminal offense punishable by up to one year of jail time and up to a $2,000 fine. Misdemeanor offenses are more severe than petty misdemeanors, but less severe than felonies.

What is a felony?

A felony is the most serious criminal offense that is generally punishable with five or more years of jail and significant fines. There are 3 different classes of felonies: Class C, Class B and Class A, with increasing penalties respectively for each class.

What is the difference between a no contest plea and not guilty plea?

Generally, a no contest plea has the same legal effect as a guilty plea but unlike a guilty plea, you are not admitting guilt. Even if you enter a no contest plea you are subject to the same penalties as if you had entered a guilty plea.