Understanding Law Enforcement Arrest Procedures

Arrest-PowerCommissioned police officers are given the authority to keep the peace, prevent crimes, and when needed the powers of arrest.

Power of Arrest

Sworn police officers have legal authority to conduct lawful arrest and this authority comes from the government within the officer’s jurisdiction. The legally authority is rooted in federal and state law.

When a police officer arrests a person they temporarily take away the citizens fundamental right to freedom. An officer can make a lawful arrest of a person without an arrest warrant if probable cause is established.quote-the-power-to-arrest-to-deprive-a-citizen-of-liberty-must-be-used-fairly-responsibly-loretta-lynch-107-4-0460

Probable Cause

The basic definition of probable cause is sufficient facts and reason for the officer to believe a crime has been or is being committed. Probable cause must exist for the officer to make an arrest without a warrant, search a person or property without a warrant, or seize property in the belief the items were evidence of a crime. Probable cause is rooted in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and part of the Bill of Rights.

An arrest can be made when the officer has a valid arrest warrant issued by a judge (an arrest warrant is an order to bring the named person before the court).

What Is Probable Cause?


Miranda Rights

It is an urban myth that as soon as a person is arrested the officer is required to read the Miranda Rights. Officers must inform a person of their “Miranda Rights” if the person questioned is in a custodial situation (the person believes  they are not free to leave) and the officer is going to interrogate (ask questions) the detained person about criminal activity.

What Are Miranda Rights? Miranda Rights Explained


Reasonable Force to Make a Lawful Arrest

Police officers may use reasonable force to take a person into custody. Each individual arrest is different and the courts have determined if reasonable force was used based on the severity of the crime, whether the suspect posed a threat, and is the suspect was resisting or attempting to flee (Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).

Police demonstrate use of force

Quick Recap

Police officers are the protectors of our communities. Officers patrol in our neighborhoods to deter criminal activity and to shorten police response time when dispatched and alerted for police assistance. When an officer makes a decision to arrest a person it is based on probable cause or to serve an arrest warrant issued by a judge. When an officer makes an arrest they officer is required to only use enough force that is reasonable to affectively secure and detain the person. An officer is not required by law to read a person their Miranda warnings, unless the officer is going to question the person about criminal activity, then the officer is required to advice the person of their Miranda rights.

About the Author

Mark Bond

Mark Bond has worked in law enforcement and has been a firearms instructor for more than 33 years. His law enforcement experience includes the military, local, state and federal levels as a police officer and criminal investigator. Mark obtained a BS and MS in criminal justice, and M.Ed in educational leadership with Summa Cum Laude honors. As a lifelong learner, he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in education (EdD) with a concentration in college teaching and learning. Mark is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at a university and adjunct professor of administration of justice studies at a community college.