Charged with a Crime? Call for a Free Initial Consult.

(980) 237-4579

First-Time Offenders: What to Expect if You’re Arrested in North Carolina

By Randall & Stump excels in criminal defense, serving clients in Charlotte, NC & other surrounding cities.
Learn More
Randall & Stump, PLLC i

Category Criminal Defense
Monday, December 18, 2023

Close up of hands on a table with handcuffs on

Your impression of the criminal justice system might be based on movies and TV shows. While these programs get many things right, you need to know what to actually expect if you’re arrested for the first time.

The following is a simplified version of the basic steps of the adult criminal justice process:

Offense – Crime is committed.

Investigation – Continues throughout the process.

Arrest – Defendant is charged. Bond is set after the arrest and can be reviewed at any court hearing.

First Appearance – Bond is reviewed. Defendant advised of rights.

Probable Cause Hearing – Felony cases only. Possible grand jury indictment.

Entry of Plea – Plea negotiations and guilty pleas can happen any time before a verdict.

Trial – Misdemeanor cases are generally tried in district court. Felony cases are presented in superior court.

Sentencing – If convicted, the defendant will be sentenced by a judge.

Appeal to a Higher Court – Not all cases are appealed.

Knowing what happens after an arrest can help you protect your rights and avoid worsening the situation. No matter what led to your arrest, here’s what to expect if you’re arrested in North Carolina.

During the Arrest

If the police have a warrant, they possess a writ from a judge authorizing them to find you and make an arrest. In some cases, offenders might be arrested without warrant if the police have probable cause to believe the suspect has committed a crime.

When you’re arrested, you may be read your Miranda rights. Take advantage of them by remaining silent and invoking your right to an attorney. Trying to explain your story to the police might only end up hurting your case later, so only provide the necessary identifying information they request.

Intake and Booking

Following your arrest, you will be booked into the local jail or detention center. You’ll have your fingerprints collected and a photograph (mugshot) taken. This can be lengthy, and you may have to stay in a holding cell until it’s done.

Securing legal representation as soon as possible after you’re arrested is crucial. You have the right to an attorney, and if you cannot afford one, a public defender will be assigned to your case. Your attorney will guide you through the legal process, help protect your rights, and offer advice on the best course of action.

Call today if you or a loved one were arrested.

(980) 237-4579
Fill out our online form

Appearance Before a Magistrate and Conditions of Release

Shortly after your arrest and prior to any formal court dates at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, you will go before a magistrate for them to advise you of the charges you are facing and set any applicable conditions of your release, including your bond amount.

The court may decide you can be released on one of the following:

Bond: Bond is set by a magistrate or judge, and it’s a financial guarantee you’ll appear back in court for your scheduled hearings. If you return for your hearings, your bond will be returned to you. If you fail to appear, you forfeit the bond and can be arrested again. Bonds can either be secured, or unsecured.

Secured Bond: A secured bond is a contract between you and the State, and sometimes a third party called a “surety” or commonly referred to as a bail bondsman. It is a written agreement to come to court that also requires an amount of money to be provided to the court before you can be released from jail.

Unsecured Bond: An unsecured bond is also a contract between you and the State. It is a written agreement that you will come to court, including the promise of an amount of money that you will owe the court if you fail to appear for any of your court dates. When a bond is unsecured, you do not have to pay the amount of the bond in advance in order to be released from jail.

Written Promise/Personal Recognizance: If the court trusts you to reappear in court for your hearings, you may be released on your own recognizance without paying any money upfront. The condition of release for a “written promise” is exactly what its name says: a written agreement that you will come to court on your court date. It does not require the payment or promise of money. A written promise to appear is usually available only for lower-level crimes. If you violate the written promise to appear by not showing up to court, you will be subject to arrest and may have to meet more stringent conditions to be released again.

Custody Release: A “custody release” involves release of the defendant to a person or organization that agrees in writing to supervise him while the case is pending and to make sure he comes to court. A custody release is a common condition of release used in cases such as Driving While Impaired (“DWI”). Like a written promise, a custody release does not require the payment or promise of money in order for the defendant to be released

You may have a lower bail amount or be released on your own recognizance if you face a less severe charge, such as a misdemeanor. If you’re facing a serious felony charge, bail may not be an option.

Release and Paperwork

You’ll be given copies of many documents if you’re arrested, and you should keep track of everything you receive. Being organized helps ensure you fully understand what you’re charged with, your bail amount, when you must appear for court, and more.

Don’t sign anything without reading it carefully. Ask your attorney for clarification if you don’t understand why you’re being asked to sign something.

Other Court Proceedings and Potential Outcomes

If you are charged and decide to proceed to trial, your next step is arraignment. Here, you will enter a plea and hear the charges against you. You may enter one of the following plea options:

  • Guilty: You admit to the charges against you and waive your right to a trial.
  • Not guilty: You deny the charges and request a trial.
  • No contest: You admit the case facts are true and that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict you, but don’t admit guilt.

The outcome of your case will depend on various factors, including the charges, the strength of the evidence, and your criminal history. Potential outcomes for first-time offenders in North Carolina may include:

  • Dismissal: If the evidence against you is weak, the charges may be dropped.
  • Diversion programs: North Carolina offers various diversion programs for first-time offenders to avoid a criminal record by completing counseling, community service, rehab, etc.
  • Probation: You may be placed on probation, which involves certain conditions and supervision but allows you to avoid jail time.
  • Not Guilty/Acquittal at Trial: If the State is unable to prove your guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge or jury may find you not guilty at trial.
  • Conviction: If found guilty, your conviction may lead to fines, jail time, or both.

Certain convictions can be expunged from your record in North Carolina, meaning they will be erased or sealed. Expungement can be a viable option for first-time offenders who want to move past their criminal record and have a fresh start.

The good news is many criminal cases don’t make it to trial and are resolved through a plea. Your attorney will prepare you for all potential outcomes and keep you informed throughout the process.

Arrested for the First Time? Call Randall & Stump Today

Being arrested for the first time in North Carolina can be scary, but understanding the rest of the process can help minimize the long-term consequences if you work with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

North Carolina law provides opportunities for rehabilitation and a chance to move on with your life after a mistake. But you stand a better chance of successfully fighting the charges with the help of a criminal defense attorney, not going up against the system on your own.

Call Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys at (980) 237-4579 today or complete our contact form to schedule an initial consultation.

Call our criminal defense attorneys today if you were arrested

"*" indicates required fields