While a majority of collateral consequences will occur after an individual’s formal entry into the criminal justice system via arrest and/or conviction, collateral consequences can also accrue before an individual “officially” enters the criminal justice system via a formal charge or arrest. For example, interactions with law enforcement may lead to an entry into the law enforcement agency’s internal reporting system, which keeps track of individuals and their interactions with police, any arrests made, and any other information about the interaction. These records are internal and are not removed if the police investigation proves that no arrest should be made.

Consequences that can arise at this stage are often fewer than at other stages, but even something as short-term as temporary police detention can, for example, prevent someone from getting to work or violate a company’s employment policy, which may result in the individual being fired. In states that are non-police-charging states, a prosecutor has the opportunity to intervene at this stage in the form of diversion or alternatives that result in a case/charges not being filed.