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  • Writer's pictureCamille Wagner

My Loved One Was Arrested in D.C. - Now What?

You get a call from your loved one: "I am getting arrested." You are thinking to yourself: "Now what?"

Finding out your loved one is getting arrested is worrying. Here is a guide of what to except and what you can do to help your loved one.



"I am getting arrested."

This may be the last time you speak to your loved one that day. When arrested, your loved one will no longer have access to a phone unless they are released on citation release (and they get to make a call before leaving the police station). If they are held over night to see the Judge prior to release, you will not hear from them as they will be considered a "lock up."


When arrested, individuals are taken to the respective police department for booking and processing. Each person is screened by the department for citation release. If your loved one has no pending cases, is not on supervision of any kind, and has not been alleged to have committed a violent or dangerous offense, they will likely be given citation release. On the other hand, if your loved one has a pending case, is on supervision, or is alleged to have committed a violent or dangerous offense, they may be denied citation release and held to see the Court the following business day.

  • Citation Release: After processing and booking, your loved one is released with a notice to return to Court for arraignment. Between the time of release and the first court date, the Office of the Attorney General and/or the United States Attorney's Office will review the officers' report and decide whether to formally prosecute your loved one. If the respective prosecutorial agencies decide to formally prosecute, your loved one will be arraigned at the hearing set on the citation release.

  • Lock Up: If your loved one is denied citation release, they will be held until the Court can see them next (within 24 hours of arrest except if held on a Saturday and seen the following Monday). The prosecutorial agencies will determine within that short time frame whether they want to formally prosecute your loved one. If they decide to not prosecute ("no paper" the case), your loved one will be released. If the prosecutorial agency decides to prosecute ("paper" the case), your loved one will be seen in courtroom C-10 (basement level of the courthouse) for arraignment/presentment. Hearings in C-10 are open to the public so you can come support your loved one. The courtroom is open at 1:30 p.m.


Regardless of whether your loved one is a citation release or a lock up, it is extremely important they get in touch with an experienced criminal attorney immediately.

  • Importance of an Attorney in Citation Release cases: If your loved one is getting released the same day of their arrest on citation release, their court date will be a few weeks away. In criminal cases, time is of the essence. Getting an attorney on board early will ensure that:

    1. Evidence is properly preserved - in many cases, there is video footage available from surrounding businesses, properties, or traffic cameras. This footage can be helpful to your loved one's defense. However, if not properly preserved, it can be erased and no longer available. Having an attorney early can ensure that no evidence be erased or no longer available when needed.

    2. Prosecutors know your loved one is represented - the attorney can reach out to the respective prosecutorial agencies to inform them that they are on the case. This is helpful because it ensures timely disclosure of evidence and early negotiations.

    3. Your loved one is not walking in blind - court proceedings can be confusing. Having an attorney early on can help your loved one understand what is coming next and allows them to prepare for their hearing.

    4. Any witnesses don't disappear - the longer the case drags on, the less likely witnesses are available or remember the events. Getting an experienced criminal attorney early on can preserve witness testimony.

  • Importance of an Attorney in Lock Up cases: If your loved one is a lock up, the next time you will see them will be in C-10 if their case was formally prosecuted or "papered." The judge in C-10 will have to determine whether your loved one should remain held or be released with conditions of pre-trial release. Getting an attorney on board immediately will ensure that:

    1. Your loved one is represented during this first court appearance - the possibility that your loved one may remain held is haunting. You are going to want someone by their side, fighting for their release, ready to argue on their behalf that they are not a danger to the community and not a flight risk. You are going to want someone that will make themselves available within the next 3-5 days if the judge denies release and schedules a preliminary hearing or detention hearing.

    2. Evidence is properly preserved - an experienced criminal attorney will put the prosecutor on notice during the hearing in C-10 that any and all evidence ought to be properly preserved and turned over. Furthermore, and similarly to citation release cases, the attorney will be able to ensure that any other evidence will be preserved.

    3. Your loved ones' rights are not violated - your loved one has certain constitutional rights and they need to be properly asserted.

    4. There are no confusions - getting on a case at the very beginning allows the attorney to have a full understanding of the facts and the parties involved. As time goes by and the case flourishes over the next weeks, months, or years, bringing on a new player in the game, like a new attorney, could lead to some holes in the case. Having an experienced attorney alongside your loved one from the start can only help.


If you pick up the phone and hear your loved one say "I am getting arrested," your next call should be to a criminal attorney. At Wagner, PLLC, our experienced criminal & DUI attorneys are ready and willing to defend your loved one. We are a call or text away!


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