What Procedures Must the Police Follow While Making an Arrest?

An officer cannot arrest someone just because they feel like it. It's not sufficient that they have a hunch or mere suspicion that someone might be a criminal. Police officers have to be able to justify detaining the arrested person.

Police take away a person's fundamental right to freedom when they arrest someone. So, police must follow several procedures before they can make a legal arrest. Criminal law is limited by Constitutional rights interpreted by the Supreme Court. These limits are enshrined in criminal procedure to protect our Fourth Amendment rights.

Many states and police departments add procedures in criminal cases. In the context of criminal charges and arraignment, these extra procedures may be designed to:

  • Protect police officers' physical safety
  • Help law enforcement officers document an arrest
  • Help arresting officers avoid making legal mistakes that could ruin the prosecution's case

Police arrest procedures differ from one department to the next. So, if you have questions about the procedures used in your area, it's best to contact a local attorney. The following is a general discussion of the procedures police must follow while making an arrest.

When an Officer May Make an Arrest

An officer may only make an arrest in a very limited number of circumstances, including:

  • The officer personally observed a crime such as a domestic violence misdemeanor
  • The officer has probable cause (reasonable grounds) to believe the person arrested committed a crime
  • The officer has an arrest warrant issued by a judge

 This is usually achieved by showing that some tangible evidence gave them probable cause.

For example, someone stopped for a traffic ticket might exhibit signs of inebriation. If they demonstrate slurred speech and unbalanced gait in the officer's presence, the officer may be justified in making a warrantless arrest for DUI. The suspect may be brought to a police station for booking and then released on their own recognizance.

Requirements of Police: Arrest Procedures

The rules regarding what an officer must do while making an arrest vary by jurisdiction. Generally, an arrest happens when the person being arrested reasonably believes they aren't free to leave. The officer doesn't need to use handcuffs or place the arrestee in a police cruiser, although police often use these tactics to protect themselves.

Police also do not have to read Miranda Rights at the time of arrest as long as there is no questioning, but the police must read a suspect their rights before interrogation. Many police departments recommend that Miranda Rights be read at the time of arrest. This way, they can start questioning right away, and any information volunteered by a suspect can be used against them.

Finally, although police will almost always tell an arrestee why they're under arrest, they may not necessarily have any legal obligation to do so. This depends on both the jurisdiction and the circumstances of the arrest.

Police Arrest Procedures and Excessive Force

Police aren't allowed to use excessive force or treat the arrestee cruelly. This is universal and protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Generally, police officers are only allowed to use the minimum amount of force necessary to:

  • Protect themselves
  • Bring the suspect into police custody

This is why people are advised never to resist an arrest or argue with police. This is recommended even if they believe the arrest is wrongful. Resistance could lead to the use of more force.

If the arrestee thinks the arrest is unjustified or incorrect, they can always challenge it later. This can be achieved with the help of an attorney who can bring a civil rights case. In the interim, any criminal defendant is entitled to appear before a judge without unnecessary delay so that they may enter a not guilty plea.

Confused About Police Arrest Procedures? Call a Defense Lawyer Today

Even if you don't think you'll ever be arrested, it's always good to know your rights and the rules that police must follow. After all, many cases have shown that even when someone is arrested for a minor crime, the arrest process can escalate into a dangerous situation.

If you have questions about the arrest process, a client relationship with a criminal lawyer may be helpful. If you've already been arrested, you may want to call a qualified criminal defense attorney near you for legal advice.

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