What Happens When You are Booked in Jail?

Almost 2 million Americans are currently imprisoned, and even more will go through the booking process before getting released on bail. If you ever get arrested for a crime, then you’ll get booked in jail, too. The good news is that the whole process can go smoothly if you know what to expect beforehand.

Learn everything you need to know about getting booked in jail below.

The Process of Being Booked

Before we get into the details of exactly how the process will go, you might wonder why you need to get “booked” in the first place. The process of being booked is crucial because it’s the authority’s way of proving who you are and outlining the crimes you’re being accused of. Further, booking helps the police determine if you’re wanted in other areas for committing crimes.

Getting the Personal Information of the Suspect

Once you get arrested, expect to get handcuffed and driven to the station. From there, you’ll get taken to a booking officer. This officer will start your file. This file will begin by identifying who you are. Expect to provide details like:

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Your phone number
  • Vital statistics
  • The specific crime you’re charged with

In the past, all of these details would get recorded by hand. In today’s world, this information will immediately get put onto a digital file.

Mug Shots

The next part of your file is your mugshot. A mugshot is photographic evidence of the police officer’s claims. The photograph will include a time and date stamp, which will prove that you were the person arrested for the specific crime. For the photograph, you’ll also be lined up in a position where the person looking at the photograph can see your height. Further, the photograph reveals your physical appearance upon getting arrested. If you’re bruised or injured, then that will come across in your photos.

Securing Personal Property on the Suspect

Once your photographs and file are uploaded to your electronic file, you’ll move on to the next stage of the process. You’ll be provided with a specific jail uniform. At this point, you’ll also be forced to give up your personal belongings. You won’t get to keep your phone, wallet, trinkets, or photographs. Everything will get collected and stored away until you get released.

jail booking


Next, you’ll get taken to a fingerprinting station. Here, you’ll go through the lengthy process of inking every finger and providing the impressions of each finger. This process is important because all of your prints will get uploaded into a database. Once there, it will get compared to the fingerprints that exist in the system for unsolved crimes, too. Your prints will remain in this database forever, so it could incriminate you in future crimes, too.

Full Body Search

As if everything you’ve gone through thus far wasn’t invasive enough, next you’ll endure a full-body search. The reason for this search is to ensure that nothing enters into the jail that shouldn’t. Depending on the circumstances and the specific police station you get booked in, you may undergo a strip search.

National Warrant Search

While you’re getting searched, other officers will be running your data through several state, national, and federal databases. They’ll input your name and date of birth into these systems. If you have any current open warrants in other states, then they should appear during this search. If they do appear and they get connected to you, then those charges will be added on to whatever charges you’re facing. In some situations, you may end up getting extradited to that area to face those charges after you face the current charges.

General Health Screening

After your search, you’ll undergo a general health screening. The purpose of this screening is to ensure you don’t need immediate medical attention. For instance, if you were injured before or during your arrest, then you’ll receive treatment here. Additionally, this health screening might include checking you for certain viruses like COVID-19 that could spread easily in jail. Depending on the jail, this screening might include blood tests, X-rays, or additional screening.


If medical clears you, then you’ll be headed straight to an incarceration area. You will get asked specific questions like gang affiliations or other issues. Depending on your answers, you may get held in protective custody, general population, or an isolation cell. Regardless, you’ll be behind bars without an option to leave.'

Where Do Booking Records Get Stored?

Once you’ve gone through the booking process, your file will get stored electronically with the County Sheriff’s Office. These records might also exist with the state’s Department of Corrections. Some records, like your fingerprints, will get stored in national databases. Arrest records are public information, so don’t expect to retain your privacy if you end up going through the booking process.

booking procedure

Now You Know All About What Happens When You Get Booked in Jail

Getting booked in jail is a very negative experience for most people. Not only will you be forced to give up your personal belongings and provide your details to police, but you’ll also have to undergo a full body search. You won’t even have access to your personal clothes. Even worse, at the end of all of it, you’ll end up incarcerated. Your freedom is no longer optional.

If you want to get out of jail before your hearing, then you’ll likely have to pay bail. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until your hearing and sentence for a chance to get free. In the meantime, you’ll want to hire a lawyer to help you defend yourself against your charges.

Now that you know what happens when you get booked in jail, you’ll want to do your best to avoid it! If you don’t have a choice, though, then you’ll be prepared and know what to expect. Are you looking for similar guides and how-to manuals to help you thrive through this year? Check out more of our guides below.