Probable Cause

Commissioner says “No Wrong Doing” But on what assessment?

by Cheryl Morrow

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. This article has some information about the general requirements police must meet before making an arrest. It should be noted that many states and police departments add extra procedures; sometimes, these procedures are designed to protect police officers’ physical safety, sometimes they are designed to help the police officer document the arrest, and sometimes they are designed to help the officer avoid making a legal mistake which could ruin the prosecution’s case in a criminal trial.

These extra procedures differ from one police department to the next, so if you have questions about these, it’s best to contact your local police. When may an officer arrest someone? 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.

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 his Miranda 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 are 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. One universal rule police officers must follow is that they are not allowed to use excessive force or treat the arrestee cruelly. 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.

The more a suspect struggles, the more force is required for the police to do their job. If the arrestee thinks the arrest is unjustified or incorrect, she can always challenge it later with the help of an attorney, and if warranted, bring a civil rights case. What is Probable Cause? The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution authorizes police to make an arrest as long as they have “probable cause.” The Fourth Amendment 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. The idea behind probable cause is to prevent the sort of police states that exist in other countries, where officials can simply round up people they don’t like as “undesirables” or “threats” without any justification. This standard is deliberately vague, but over time the interpretation of what constitutes probable cause has become fairly solidified: * Probable cause is established through factual evidence, and not just suspicions or hunches. * Probable cause can be established through observation alone (sight, smell, sound, etc.), and includes observations that create suspicion based on a familiar pattern of criminal activity, such as when an officer sees a car circling around an area repeatedly or when someone is flashing their headlights. * Probable cause can be based on information derived from witnesses, victims and informants.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s