How An Arrest Works

To arrest someone is to apprehend someone or deprive someone of their freedom of movement to take them into custody. It is a process in the criminal justice system. The arrest is the first step before someone is questioned and potentially charged with a crime. Most countries have laws stating the police can detain an arrested person for a certain amount of hours before charging or releasing them.

When a police officer makes an arrest, they must determine a crime has occurred, and there are reasonable grounds you are the suspect responsible. Officers must verbally say you are under arrest or make it clear by physically holding you. One of the procedural requirements of an arrest is a Miranda Warning, including the right to remain silent.

Although arrests usually occur with a warrant, they can be done without a warrant and by citizens if there is probable cause. Probable cause means there is sufficient evidence to suspect someone of committing a crime.

Real-World Example Of An Arrest

The Draper v. United States case, decided in 1959, provides an example of police using probable cause to arrest James Draper without a warrant. In September 1956, a federal narcotics agent, John Marsh, received information from his paid informant James Hereford that Draper was dealing drugs. Hereford also told Marsh that Draper would be traveling back from Chicago to Denver with heroin.

Marsh and a Denver police agent arrested a man fitting Draper's description on September 9th. They found a syringe and two envelopes containing heroin in his bag. Although Draper tried to say police obtained the drugs through an unlawful search and seizure, the court dismissed the motion. Marsh had probable cause to arrest Draper based on reliable information from his informant.

The courts convicted Draper of concealing and transporting drugs. An appeal through the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second District affirmed the decision to use the drugs from the arrest as evidence.

Types Of Arrests

During an arrest, you have the right to ask the reason for the arrest. Different types of arrests include:

  • Arrests Without a Warrant: A police officer can arrest you if they reasonably suspect you of a crime based on facts or credible information.
  • Arrests With a Warrant: Usually occur when an offense is not an arrestable one. Types of warrants include arrest warrants, bench warrants, witness warrants, and surety warrants.
  • Citizen's Arrest: Also known as private arrests, anyone can do it when a crime occurs in their presence. The citizen must transfer the arrested person to the police as soon as possible. Victims can also make private arrests.
  • Juvenile Arrests: Refers to a police officer arresting someone underage who is going to juvenile detention.

Arrest warrants are made when someone is accused of committing a crime. Bench warrants are for people who failed to attend a court appearance, trial, or hearing. A witness warrant is for people that did not appear in court as a witness under a subpoena. A surety warrant is made when someone fails to appear at court when a person responsible for supervising them during their release wants to be removed as their surety.

Arrest vs. Apprehend

Generally, the words arrest and apprehend mean the same thing. However, within the military, there is a distinction. Arrest means to stop someone from freedom of movement, such as confining them or imprisoning them. Apprehend means to capture and bring someone into custody, similar to how civilians use the word arrest.

Arrest vs. Detention

In the United States, there is a difference between an arrest and investigatory detention. An arrest means someone is not free to leave for a certain amount of time while in custody.

Investigatory detentions refer to the act of bringing someone in for questioning. They are free to leave when they please. However, choosing not to cooperate with an investigation can lead to suspicion.

Arrest vs. Imprisonment

While both words mean confinement in one place, there are small differences between the two. Imprisonment means someone confines you as a punishment for a crime, such as in a prison or jail. An arrest will usually occur before the police charge you with a crime or a court of law convicts you. It refers to the condition of being stopped and restricted of movement.