Arrested in Tampa? Now What?

If Arrested, You Can Expect These Steps:

Once arrested, the next steps in the process usually include booking, questioning, first appearance, and bonding out. These usually happen in the order listed, but not always. After booking, a person can make a phone call home or to a bondsman. From arrest to bonding out usually takes 24 to 48 hours, or longer on the weekend.

If you are researching attorneys for a loved one, now is a good time to seek the advice of a criminal defense lawyer. The State Attorney’s Office (SAO) makes critical decisions early in the process, and the right attorney may be able to influence those decisions.


After arrest, you are booked at the local jail. In Tampa, you are processed at Falkenburg or Orient Road Jail. You are fingerprinted, photographed, and asked basic questions about your name, address, date of birth, and occupation. You must provide accurate personal information but you are NOT required to provide your employer’s name.

A booking photo (mug shot) will be made public on the Sheriff’s Office website. Once your case is concluded we can petition the court to have your record sealed and the photo removed (if requirements are met).

Even if the State Attorney drops the charge, your arrest and booking photo will remain visible as a public record unless sealed or expunged. Our office can do this for you. See our Sealing and Expungement page.

Questioning by the Police (*IMPORTANT!*)

At the start of questioning, the police may read you your rights, which include the phrases “You have the right to remain silent,” and “Anything you say can be used against you.” They may also follow up with, “Do you understand these rights?”  We recommend the following, and nothing more:

“I understand, and I want to talk with my attorney first.” The police MUST STOP questioning you at this point. Say nothing more.

At this point, the police may try to pressure you into talking by saying:

  • “If you haven’t done anything wrong, why not talk to us?” (A challenge.)
  • “You’re not the one we’re after.” (You might be, or could say something that incriminates you.)
  • “I’m sure you can easily explain this…” (Just because you have an explanation doesn’t mean they won’t use it against you.)
  • “If you talk to us, we can make a deal for you.” (They can’t. Only the State Attorney can do that.)
  • “If you don’t talk to us, we’re going to arrest you.” (If they say this, they are likely going to arrest you anyway, at the conclusion of your questioning.)

Remember, the police are not always truthful when they question you, and they are not required to be honest! They are trained to look for any signs of guilt, and may misinterpret your nervousness as you “trying to hide” something. Also, you may make a statement that may incriminate you on another matter.

First Appearance

First appearance before a judge is simply the first formality of the criminal process for those defendants remaining in custody. State courts in Florida conduct first appearance hearings 365 days per year. The charges against you are read, and the judge will ask you about your ability to hire a lawyer.

If you cannot afford one, the judge may appoint a lawyer (public defender) to represent you. There may be a brief discussion about your bond amount and whether a “release on your own recognizance” (ROR) is appropriate in your case.

The victim of a crime is typically notified and can advise the court of his/her wishes with regard to your release. Any release will require no contact with the victim or place of arrest.

Bond (or Bail)

If you are being held in jail, you may be released prior to your trial if you “bond out.” Bond is money you pay to the court in order to guarantee that you will appear in court in the future. If you DO appear as required, the bond will be refunded to you at the conclusion of your case. If you DO NOT show up, the court keeps the money and will issue an arrest warrant for FTA, Failure to Appear.

If you do not have enough money to post bond, you can use the services of a bondsman. They can put up money on your behalf, but will charge you to do so (usually 10% – 15%). This money is NOT refunded by the bondsman even if the charges are dropped. That is the price you pay to get out of jail.

Bond conditions can include no contact with the victim, no use of alcohol, no use of illegal drugs and no firearms possession. In certain and limited situations, some offenses are not bondable. Not every defendant will get out of custody.

There are usually no bonds given in Violation of Probation cases.

If You Need Help Finding Your Friend or Family Member

If your friend or family member has been arrested, please contact our office and we can help you find out where they are held, and how far along in the process they are. Also, you can try the Hillsborough or Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office websites:

Call Ms. Palmieri anytime at (813) 254-0254.

Ratings and Reviews

Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Rated

FL Bar Board Certified

Former Prosecutor