The quick answer to what to do when your loved one has been arrested is to hire a lawyer. There’s just a tremendous amount to know and learn, in a quick period of time, when every minute might count. The other thing is- if it’s an ordinary New York City criminal case- find out where she’s going to be arraigned (what borough), and show up Central Booking with cash (not a check or credit card- cash) for bail.
When someone has been arrested in New York, there is a requirement that he be arraigned- IE, see a judge, who determines whether bail will be set, and if so, how much, within 24 hours. In New York City, the arrest to arraignment process can be a bewildering one, as it involves many moving parts, and is different in each borough. For the most part, the arraignment will take place in the criminal court of the borough in which the arrest was made. But there are exceptions- first, if the arrest was by federal officers, the arraignment will probably be in the Federal Court in either the Southern District or the Eastern District, in Manhattan or Brooklyn respectively. Also, in addition to the five District Attorney’s offices, one for each borough, there is also the “Special Narcotics Prosecutor”, an office that has city wide jurisdiction, but that prosecutes virtually all of its cases through the Manhattan courts, even where the arrest took place in Brooklyn, or elsewhere.
If you can’t tell already, even the relatively simple question of what to do when someone has been arrested is a complex matter. If you can afford an attorney, you can greatly reduce your own anxiety, and ensure that your loved one is protected as much as possible, by hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney. Most of us have emergency numbers where we can be reached in such situations. We can cut off all questioning (vitally important for the innocent and guilty alike), and ensure that the suspect is treated properly and fairly in the all-important early stages, before your loved one even sees a judge.
So what happens during the typical arrest? Your loved one will be taken to a precinct, fingerprinted and booked, then transported to Central Booking in whatever borough the crime allegedly took place in. At Central Booking, she will be interviewed by the Criminal Justice Agency (“CJA”), whose role is to gather information about her community ties, for the purposes of a bail application. If he doesn’t have a lawyer already, he will then be interviewed by a public defender, who will have paperwork regarding the charges against him, and his RAP sheep- his criminal record. He will then see a judge, who will decide whether they are to be released without bail (ransom), released, or remanded (ineligible for release).
The best you can do for your loved one is to hire a lawyer for him, and to show up in court for him or her, to demonstrate the “community ties” necessary to procure his release. Bring cash to court with you- as much as you can muster, so that if bail is set, you can pay it right there in court, and he doesn’t have to go to Rikers or another jail while you’re out scrambling trying to get the bail money together. If things go well, you can just put the money right back under your mattress- but if bail is set, you’ll be able to pay it right there.