The People’s Lawyer

Questioning the constitutionality of an arrest

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2024 | Criminal Defense

The U.S. Constitution contains a variety of legal standards and protections in place to safeguard individuals from improper law enforcement actions. Everyone in the U.S. has rights under the Constitution, and police officers must follow protocols and laws to protect those rights. Therefore, an arrest does not mean you will definitely go to jail. You see, for an arrest to be valid and legal, it should not go against your rights.

Here is a breakdown of the critical elements that typically determine the constitutionality of an arrest:

Justification for arrest

Law enforcement officers must have a justified reason, known as probable cause, to believe a person has engaged in criminal activity. This is a foundational requirement that supports the legality of the arrest.

Authority to arrest

In most cases, an officer needs to have a warrant for an arrest to be lawful. However, there are exceptions where law enforcement officers can make warrantless arrests, such as when someone commits a crime in their presence or when there is a risk of the suspect fleeing.

Rights upon detention

Suppose a person is in custody and subject to interrogation. In that case, law enforcement agents must inform them of their rights (known as Miranda rights), including the right to stay silent and to legal representation. Failure to inform a person of their rights when arrested can call into question the validity of the arrest and any evidence obtained as a result.

Appropriate Force

When making an arrest, the level of force applied by the police officer should be no more than what is reasonably necessary to ensure safety and compliance. The use of excessive force can be a violation of an individual’s constitutional rights.

Non-discriminatory practices

Arrests should never be based on discriminatory reasons. The Constitution guarantees equal protection, meaning all individuals must receive the same treatment under the law without prejudice based on race, gender or other personal attributes.

Fair legal process

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments guarantee due process, which means the person arrested should be given a fair and impartial procedure throughout the legal process. The authorities involved in the case must not treat you like a suspect or criminal. They must give you a chance to tell your side of the story first.

Unfortunately, police officers sometimes go beyond legal limitations to apprehend suspects. If an officer breaks these rules and violates your rights, the arrest could be unconstitutional. If you think this has happened to you or someone you know, you should talk to a lawyer who can look at everything that happened and advise you on what to do next.