Van Beek: Anatomy of an arrest – Part I
Unless they work in law enforcement or have an arrest record, most people are unfamiliar with what happens from arrest to courtroom. This is the first of a three-part series. The first is an overview with a focus on victim services; the next will be on patrol, then the third will be on the detention center.
There are general procedures, which are followed by law enforcement agencies. Their success often relies on implementation.
The Sheriff’s Office, police departments and law enforcement agencies within Eagle County, all work on creating highly efficient, innovative, yet compassionate programs between arrest and verdict. We realize that while certain legal procedures must be followed, we also recognize that we are handling sensitive and generally uncommon situations for the people involved.
We begin with a base of treating everyone with respect and dignity. We take seriously the commitment of “innocent until proven guilty” while maintaining the high priority of protecting the victim. Our responsibility is not judgment — it is caretaking the injured, as well as the accused.
The Sheriff’s Office realizes victims and their family members have special needs following an incident or crisis. Our victim services unit provides a multi-dimensional approach to care, free of charge, and it begins with compassion. We have onboard professionals and an incredible group of trained volunteers.
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We work as a team, from patrol, to victim services, to detention, in preparation for courtroom proceedings, where everyone has a chance to present their case. We are the caretakers until a verdict is decided. Everyone accused of a crime, regardless of its nature, has the right to a fair trial, and all victims of crimes have a right to be heard.
While some arrests are mandatory, depending on the crime, a summons to appear may be issued in place of an arrest. There are conditions for this option and many factors must be considered, but we lean toward compassion regarding its impact on family members, job status and costs associated with an arrest.
However, once a suspect has been arrested and charged with a crime, the case is filed with the district attorney’s office. The victim’s testimony is often crucial to the successful prosecution of the case and victim services aids in the emotional preparation. The district attorney appears at the court proceedings on behalf of the state. It is the district attorney’s responsibility to present the case and its allowable evidence to the court.
Misdemeanors go to county court; felonies go to the district court. During initial advisement, the judge will clarify their understanding of the charges and read them their rights to assure understanding. At the advisement hearing, a bond will be set in accordance with the type of crime committed.
The more serious the crime, the higher the bond. Bond is money paid as a condition of a pretrial release, used to ensure the return of the accused for court proceedings. If a person is unable to obtain a personal recognizance bond (a release with signature, on promise to return) authorized by a judge, or to post a cash bond, they will remain detained until a bond reduction hearing is held, or a disposition of the case is reached. Restrictions may be placed depending on the offense, which might include drug testing, an ankle monitor, or a restraining order. Then a return court date is set.
Victim services unit
The Sheriff’s Office realizes victims and their family members have special needs following a crime or crisis. The program is designed to assist victims on an informational and emotional level to help reduce the physical and emotional suffering that occurs with the trauma of a critical incident. Services are available 24/7, in-person or by phone to provide immediate support and assistance to the victim(s), their families, and friends.
A deputy on the scene is better able to focus his or her efforts on containing the scene and proceeding with the investigation if the victim is receiving the individual attention they need and deserve. When a crime has been reported, the responding officer’s first concern is for the safety of all involved.
The officer may need to ask many questions that may feel unnecessary, unfair, or accusatory, but these questions are a vital part of the investigation and are not intended to offend the victim. The victim services unit can be a comfort during this process.
Advocates are trained and assigned, as needed, to answer questions the victim may have, to make appropriate referrals, to assist with community services, to accompany the victim during interviews, to provide courtroom support (if time allows or there is a need), or to simply give comfort and support during this high-stress, emotional time. We are a community that cares, and it is exemplified by this wonderful group of kind and thoughtful individuals.
The victim services program and the volunteer auxiliary work together with the district attorney’s office to provide information about possible benefits available through the Crime Victim’s Compensation Act, which may provide financial assistance for losses suffered as a result of their victimization.
The professionals at the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, local police departments and affiliated agencies are here to protect and serve, and that includes everyone. Our job is to ensure a safe community, and the dedication of our staff goes above and beyond that which is necessary, to that which is compassionate, innovative and effective. We aim to set the pace for others to follow.
James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at email@example.com.