When making an arrest, police officers need to follow the rules of the law. If they do not, the arrest is not legal and it puts the entire case into question. How do you know if your arrest was legal or not?
In order to legally arrest a person, an officer must have Probable Cause to do so. It is laid out in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution which states:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
It is a protection against a government overreaching its boundaries and rounding up and imprisoning people without any proof of a crime having been committed. However, Probable Cause does not necessarily mean there is definitive proof. It can be gained using observations, information from witnesses, patterns of criminal activity, and evidence, even if it’s circumstantial. Probable Cause can be a fuzzy area.
If the police arrest you because of a witness statement which later turns out to be false or a lie, they still had Probable Cause to arrest you because, at the time of the arrest, they believed it to be true.
Detained or Arrested?
When an officer briefly holds you for questioning, he is detaining you. It’s supposed to be short and cursory. Detention is usually used to question a person who was acting suspiciously or was in an area where he shouldn’t have been. Police use it as a way to assess a situation before making an arrest, to ensure they have Probable Cause to make an arrest.
While detaining you, officers can’t reach into your pockets but they can pat you down if they consider you to be dangerous, and if during the pat down they feel something that they may think is a weapon, they can reach in and take it out. During your detention, they can use other means of searching you like a drug-sniffing dog, a metal detector, or searching the police database for outstanding arrest warrants.
If the officer finds Probable Cause while detaining you, he or she may arrest you and take you into custody. At that time, you must be advised of your Miranda Rights.
If you’ve watched any police show at any time in your life, you’ve heard your Miranda Rights recited. Your Miranda Rights are:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
If the arresting officer fails to read you your rights in their entirety, your arrest was unlawful and any information obtained during or as a result of your arrest may be deemed admissible in court.
What You Can Do
If you think you’ve been unlawfully arrested, call a lawyer as soon as you can. It may be possible to get your case dismissed if the arresting officer failed to follow proper procedures or overstepped his power. An attorney can help you determine if you have a case for dismissal or even for a civil lawsuit.
If you’ve been arrested, Mercy Bail Bonds can help. Call us at (727)856-7775 to get out of jail and back home quickly.