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When Can Police Place You in Handcuffs?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

Many people associate being handcuffed by police with being arrested and read Miranda rights.

However, there are several different situations, including but not limited to being arrested, in which police may place you in handcuffs or other restraints without violating your civil rights.

So when can police put you in handcuffs? Here are a few common scenarios:

  • When executing a warrant. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the right of police officers to use handcuffs to detain occupants of premises being searched pursuant to a search warrant in Muehler v. Mena in 2005. The Court had previously found in Michigan v. Summers (in 1981) that handcuffing an occupant during search of the premises was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable seizure of a person.
  • For officer safety purposes. The same rationale that allows officers to handcuff occupants of a premises being searched also applies to other situations in which an officer feels he or she may be at risk. As a training bulletin used by the Los Angeles Police Department states, "The handcuffing of an arrestee is not based on rigid criteria. It is determined by the nature of each situation as perceived by the officer." If an officer feels that placing a person in handcuffs is the best way to ensure his or her own safety, then a court would not likely find that the officer had violated the rights of the person being detained.
  • While a person is in custody. A person who has already been arrested and taken into custody may be handcuffed while in custody, even while appearing in court. However, if wearing restraints in court would be unduly prejudicial to a jury, your attorney may be able to challenge it.
  • When there is probable cause to place you under arrest. Although police are not obligated to place a suspect who is being arrested into handcuffs or other restraints, officers may do so if they feel that it is necessary for their own protection.

If you feel your civil rights have been violated by police misconduct, a criminal defense attorney can help you defend yourself in court.

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