What Procedures Must the Police Follow While Making an Arrest?

When the police arrest someone, they take away that person's fundamental right to freedom. Consequently, there are several procedures the police must follow before they can make a legal arrest so that our rights remain protected. Many states and police departments add extra procedures. Sometimes, they're designed to protect police officers' physical safety; sometimes they're meant to help the officer document the arrest; and some of these procedures are intended to help the officer avoid making a legal mistake which could ruin the prosecution's case.

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

When an Officer May Make an Arrest

There are only a very limited number of circumstances in which an officer may make an arrest:

  • The officer personally observed a crime;
  • The officer has probable cause to believe that person arrested committed a crime;
  • The officer has an arrest warrant issued by a judge.

An officer cannot arrest someone just because she feels like it or has a vague hunch that someone might be a criminal. Police officers have to be able to justify their arrest usually by showing some tangible evidence that led them to probable cause.

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 that she is not free to leave. The officer need not 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. However, the police must read a suspect their rights before an interrogation, so many police departments recommend that Miranda Rights be read at the time of arrest. This way, they can start questioning right away, and also, 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 and bring the suspect into police custody. This is why people are advised to never resist an arrest or argue with police, even if they believe the arrest is inappropriate, since 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 with the help of an attorney and, if warranted, bring a civil rights case.

Confused About Police Arrest Procedures? Call a Defense Attorney 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, or you've already been arrested, you may want to contact a qualified criminal defense attorney near you to learn more.

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