Why does arresting+booking seem to be such an indispensible part of the US law enforcement process?

This is prompted by the Khobragade incident in New York (MPSIMS thread here), but also by a number of other cases reported from the US (mostly one high-profile person or another arrested for shoplifting, for patronizing a prostitute, for DUI etc.)

My impression is that it is SOP in the US not only to identify a suspect, check for outstanding warrants, and invite him/her to make a statement (in hope he/she is stupid enough to do so), but also to arrest the suspect and hold him/her at the station for at least a short period of time.

To Americans this seems to be the obvious procedure to follow, but it is markedly different from what I see here in Germany in the few cases of minor crime I witnessed (mainly shoplifting) and the many read of in the local papers’ police column.

For example when someone is caught shoplifting in the supermarket over the street from me the procedure usually is: police van arrives, suspect is escorted to the van (which has a small table, statement forms for the filling of), police and suspect converse for a few minutes there (presumably ID card is produced, police computer queried, suspect asked if he wants to make a statement), then suspect walks off and supermarket staff enter van to make their statements. A few minutes later police leave, and presumably the prosecutor has a new folder in his (physical) inbox a few days later.

If I were accused of a white-collar crime like Ms. Khobragade, I’d expect the police knocking on the door early in the moring with a search warrant, a search of my apartment and/or office for relevant evidence made in my presence depending on the nature of the case (with the police pricing their ears for me letting something slip), later to receive an invitation by the prosecutor’s office to make a statement (I have to go but can decline all questions except for identifying myself), still later to receive the indictment and a court summons. *
What I’d not expect, as someone with known identity, with known and fixed residence, would be to be arrested at the beginning of the case. If I were arrested for a nonviolent offence, I also would expect not to be handcuffed (the handcuffing of nonresisting arrestees part looks to me to be a major part of European-media horror stories of travelers’ experience with US law enforcement/customs - it looks like gratuitous humiliation) *

So, is arresting and booking really invariably a part of the prosecution process in the US, and, if this is the case: why?

That sounds to me like the German police arrest and book people immediately, too. The only difference is that they use mobile offices for the purpose instead of taking arrestees to a station in a building.

For most crimes, the way that prosecutors ensure that the defendant will show up at court at the appointed time is through the bail process: you pledge a certain amount of money which the court will hold until you show up for your trial, which will be forfeited if you skip town. The more serious the charge, the higher the bail. Violent cases like murder are usually not granted bail.
If you don’t come up with bail money, you stay in jail until your trial.

So in order to do that, you have to be arrested, put in jail, and wait for your arraignment before a judge who will decide your bail. Over the centuries, the procedures for being tossed in a cell awaiting arraignment have necessarily gotten more involved.

So the impetus has been to streamline this process if possible in a lot of jurisdictions. For example, many places now do arraignments/bail hearings via videoconferencing, so you don’t even have to leave the jail to go to the courthouse. Hooray for technology!

Partly force of habit (we’ve always done it that way) and for some parts (handcuffs) officer safety.

The usual course is you get arrested or taken into custody once there is some specific evidence of your guilt. The arrest could happen at the scene of the crime, your home, the police station where you have been “voluntarily” giving evidence or answering questions or just about anywhere else. At that point (arrest) you are read your rights and cuffed. People here are strange – someone up on three murder counts with an arrest record three miles along can be the most cooperative arrest possible. He’s a professional and acts like it. He/she has been through this before and probably has a lawyer who got him/her off before. Nothing to gain by fighting it. Its the dude who never talked to a cop before and got nailed for driving off without paying for the gas they pumped who grabs a rock or something and fights. Having your rights read and the cuffs put on says “from this point on, your status has changed and you and everyone else needs to be aware of it”.

If you were arrested some place other than the police station, your next move will be to there (or a related location) for booking. You get fingerprinted, photographed, the arresting officers fill out some paperwork and the basic evidence and criminal complaint are all put together. A prosecuting attorney is assigned and defense council is called or assigned. Getting all these lawyers and forms together takes time and you sit in a sort of limbo form of lock-up until its all ready for the next step.

Which is arraignment – usually at “night court”. A judge gets to see the basic evidence, hear from both attorneys, and start making decisions about your future. Do you get bail? If so, how much? Is a pre-trial investigation of you (not the facts in this case but you as a person) in order? Are there cells available somewhere? Even if your guilt is beyond question, at this point you are still “not guilty” and will almost certainly plead “not guilty”. An “official” judge will probably be assigned your case and from there the fun and games really begin.

Up to this point basically everyone is the same; shoplift a can of beans or murder a school full of kids, these are the steps taken (bases touched would be the American idiom). Having some of the busiest criminal courts in the world, you either do things in an orderly fashion or everything could collapse.

How do you propose it goes? I doubt it is much different here than in other western countries. Just some differences in technique. The techniques are different here between states and departments. The basics are the same. Confirm identity, issue summonses, process (photo, fingerprint).

My department covers about 60,000 residents.

Processing for minor crimes go as follows. The suspect is brought in. His identity is verified. Biographical information is taken. A photo is taken. No fingerprints if its not a felony. He is released on a summons.

For felonies the same applies except fingerprints are taken. The complaint goes on a warrant. A judge approves the warrant and bail may be set. Bail is contingent on multiple factors such as seriousness of the crime, criminal history, opportunity to flee…etc. Bail is not a punishment but used to ensure return to court. If bail is made then he is released. If not, off to the county jail.

Sorry, no. Why would you make the assumption that a suspect should be treated like a Victorian gentleman? The case you mention is a serious crime with $250,000 bail and a suspect who is a prime candidate to flee from justice. All suspects are handcuffed because you can not predict who will become violent just by what job they hold. It has nothing to do with humiliation, gratuitous or otherwise. An arrestee is nonresisting right up to the point they resist. Again, there is no predicting just because they hold a decent job or seem nice.

The WHY is to adhere to the Due Process Clause’s of either the 5th or 14th Amendment’s.

DP means an arrestee has to be provided a legal mechanism to not be deprived of “Life or Liberty” without Due Process of law.

So your position is “stop complaining, we’re chaining you up and dragging you off to ensure your liberty”. Terrific.

In England we traditionally have a distinction between summonsable and arrestable offences. If you won’t be in prison for more than six months if convicted of a crime then you can’t be arrested. You get summonsed, you turn up in court at the appointed time. If you don’t turn up, then you can be arrested. If you’re arrested you’re normally given police bail, and quickly released on your own recognisance.

Every effort should be made to keep those yet to be convicted of any crime from prison.

I can only answer in generalities because these thing vary to a degree across the country. The distinction is made here too. Generally for misdemeanors a summons is issued. Sometimes with no physical arrest, sometimes with an arrest and then released on a summons after processing. For minor crimes there is often no bail. Bail may be set if the suspect has a history of not showing up for court. Bail is not a punishment, it is there to ensure that a defendant shows up for court.

People who are convicted go to prison. Those awaiting trial who can’t make bail go to jail. There is a difference.

If you wish I can go into specific procedures here but I could only assure you of it being correct for my jurisdiction.

People who are convicted of misdemeanors usually go to jail, not prison.

I can’t help but suspect that the big difference between the USA and elsewhere is the lack of identification papers. In the USA it is totally ok to go around without any sort of identification, and maybe that’s why the police need to make a big deal out of taking the suspect physically to get him photographed etc. Elsewhere, if the suspect produces his ID and it seems genuine, the police don’t have much reason to hold him.

Just speculating my behind off as the question made me think thoughts.

Would some degree of difference also derive from the police and judicial structure? It is my understanding that generally in Europe the police force exists at the national or relatively large-sub national level.

Whereas in the United States police jurisdiction is generally pretty narrow from a geographical point of view. And the courts too.

While I could two Germany and go through a dozen police juristictions, I pretty much go through that many between my office and my previous home a normal drive home on surface streets would put me in the jurisdictions of San Francisco PD, California Highway Patrol, Emeryville PD, Oakland PD, San Leandro PD, Alameda County Sheriffs Department, Castro Valley PD, and Dublin PD. And arrests in different places would put me in different courts.

Perhaps a bit more formality to the process is needed when the “criminals” in question are regularly going to leave (or rarely enter) your jurisdiction. Obviously, there is cooperation between all of these agencies but that is variable and relatively modern in terms of feasibility. Makes me think of the Dukes of Hazzard and how if they could just get to the county line Roscoe P. Coltrane had to stop chasing them.

Also, there is no obligation in this country (have no idea how it varies in other countries) that you be able to prove your identity to a law enforcement officer. Sure, you’re not supposed to lie, but it is ok to not carry any ID and if the response to shoplifting is catch-and-release then nothing would stop me from lying about my name and address. I wonder if that contributes to the mentality of always needing to do the full identification process with everybody.

Finally, I wonder about various progressive movements in the past to reduce official discretion and standardize processes to avoid discrimination and corruption. If everybody charged with a crime has the same initial multiple touchpoints it may be harder to bribe your way out of it, or for the officer to go lightly on the white shoplifters while coming down hard on the brown ones.

Anyway, just thoughts that went through my head having no expertise at all.

The cut off usually isn’t felony vs misdemeanor. Its usually by time of sentence. Jail is usually for those awaiting trial or sentencing and those convicted of minor crimes with a sentence of (for instance is different throughout the country) less than a year.

I think I’m right in saying all offences are now arrestable offences - not least because the police got tired of the arrest being ruled ‘wrongful’ in too many cases. Felonies and Misdemeanours, the precursors of summary and arrestable offences, were abolished in the 1960’s. The Bail Act 1976 creates a rebutable presumption that everyone will get bail unless there are articulable reasons why not (may abscond, may interfere with witnesses, may commit further offences)

That’s how it’s done here. Almost all municipalities have adopted state misdemeanors into local ordinances. Minor things like disorderly conduct, small amounts of marijuana, etc. are citation issues. If the subject can be identified at the scene and is cooperative, a citation is issued. The person is cuffed and searched as it is still an arrest. But afterwards is cited and released. Ordinance violations are not crimes and one cannot be incarcerated for them (at least not here).

If the subjects identification can’t be confirmed, or they’re being a dick, or they are from out of state, then they are taken to booking. Many times then they are booked, then cited and released. If they continue to be a dick, screw it. We charge the state crime for the offense and that they can end up doing time for.

The Sheriff has “mobile jails”, which is a specially made RV or a large trailer that got towed by a pick up truck. It gets taken to large events like Summerfest, State Fair, the lakefront on a hot day, etc… There are 2 cells and benches with hand/leg irons. If someone at the event was arrested needed to be booked, they got booked (finger printed, photographed, etc) in the mobile jail rather than transporting them all the way back to the actual jail. Then they could be bailed out there or cited and released or whatever.

I understand that in the US, there is a distinction between jail and prison. However in other countries (not sure about Canada), these two words are synonymous.

Is this about a buccaneer?

Americans are strong believers in the separation of powers. Jails, I think, are run by the executive branch of government - namely, the police - while prisons are run by the judiciary.

Unless you want to drive, buy alcohol, pay for goods with a check or credit card, . . . .

I don’t know about the rest of Europe, but the average American is much more likely to carry an official identificatory document (usually a driver’s license) as a matter of course than is the average British person in Britain. In Britain, there are only rare circumstances where you will need to provide ID, and you are not required to be actually carrying your driving license when you drive. (There was a thread on this a while back.)

Is that true anywhere? I know in California the State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which runs the prisons, is an executive branch agency.

And the Federal Bureau of Prisons is part of the Department of Justice, an executive branch agency.

With the caveat about wikipedia, this page shows quite a bit of variation on ID laws.

Germany - Required to produce identification when requested by authorities but you don’t have to do so immediately (so you don’t have to carry it around with you).

Netherlands - Required to provide documentation on request.

United Kingdom - A specific ID card doesn’t even exist and no requirement to carry and present licenses or passports.

Italy - No requirement that you have or carry an ID card, but if the police ask for your identity and you’re not able to convince them of your answer they are enabled to take you into custody for the duration of them validating it.