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This chart divides the legal system into the steps a person goes through, what happens at each stage and the
choices available. The arrows show the flow from one step to the next. We offer this as a tool to help empower
people in an arrest situation. (Based on experience in Chicago. Will likely differ in other settings.)


Warning • Stay or leave • Officer may give warning to leave or

– • Continue or stop doing intended actions command to stop doing something.

• Walk with officer • Officer physically grabs you, takes you

• Go limp; be carried away to paddy wagon or squad car; may
• Leave or return to action (if left unguarded) inform you that you are under arrest;
– pat search, sometimes handcuffs;
taken to holding area.

Processing and • Decide what, if any, information to give • Police question you for arrest reports
Booking police (remain anonymous, give name, give (name, address, occupation, ss #); may try to
sym bolic name). get additional info for intelligence;
• Refuse to post bond or post bond possible photographing, fingerprinting;
• Bail solidarity: demand no cash bonds or may take property, clothes; Bond set
– equal bonds for all. from $0-$100 in state misdemeanor
cases; no cash bonds required for city
ordinance or federal trespass

First Court Date • Use lawyers or go "Pro Se" (defend yourself) • Appear in court alone, or m ost likely
- Continuance with other arrestees; Attempt to
- Plea Agreement dispose of case by plea or trial or

– - Bench Trial (before a judge)

- Demand Jury Trial
continue case for later bench or jury
trial or plea negotiations; prosecutor
not always ready for trial.

Trial • Lawyer or Pro Se • Trial can vary from a few minute

• Bench or Jury bench trial with or without a lawyer to
• Defense based on Necessity of Actions or a full jury trial with expert witnesses
non-commission of acts/technicalities lasting a week or more, or anything in
– • Small or large resources of time & money between.

Verdict • Acquittal (Not Guilty) • Judge or jury decides

• Guilty
Sentencing • Make statement: opportunity to bring out • Hearing on appropriate sentence; can
p o l i t ic a l & m o r a l is s u e s , s h o w testify or call witnesses to why actions
non-recalcitrance were justified, necessary, etc., and
• Rem ain silent your background.

Adapted From: "Organizing for Resistance: Historical and Theological Reflections and Organizing" by the Chicago Religious Task Force
on Central America, 1985.
C hristian P eacem aker Teams
PO Box 6508, Chicago IL 60680;
training materials- 6/96