Contributed by Drew Miller
COVID has not resulted in any changes regarding the statutory obligations that state has regarding arrest and release of any individual. However, COVID has changed the practical effect of those statutes as well as their application. In the long run, although in some cases traumatic, an arrest is merely the start of the criminal process, in general it will result in the same consequences with or without COVID. Most all contacts with Law enforcement are related to traffic and misdemeanors offenses. In those cases, the release will be the issuance of a citation. The Law Enforcement officer has complete discretion in this regard. There are a lot of reason it pays to be respectful to Law Enforcement, most importantly because they deserve it, but also because they are human. Kindness and respect are generally a two-way street. If you understand that individual has the power to determine that initial release, it may have you pause and hesitate to condemn their actions when they are just trying to do their job. COVID has not changed the decision-making process, as it is one that generally, Law Enforcement will do everything in their power to keep you safe and out of custody. What has really changed it when and individual is brought to jail pending release. The law indicates that the ranking officer of the place of detention also has the discretion to release be the issuance of a citation in lieu of continued custody. COVID has increased detention facilities doing their best to release as many people as they can on citation to protect not only that individual but those that are incarcerated. If the arrest is for a felony, upon a recommendation of a prosecuting attorney, the ranking officer on duty at the place of detention to which the arrested person is taken may issue a citation in lieu of continued custody. Again, the State of Arkansas is paying attention to COVID and doing its best to take individual circumstances, particularly health issues, in making all decision of release. Which as a practical effect has added COVID considerations to the list of factors in determining whether continued custody or a citation is the best course of action.