Issue to examine in building criminal defense case: arrest legality

In our previous post, we began speaking about the crossover between civil rights claims and criminal defense with respect to the issue of arrests. As we noted, those who have been subjected to an arrest without probable cause may be able to pursue a civil rights claim against the arresting officer and other liable parties. Lack of probable cause for an arrest can also have consequences for criminal cases.

Established principles of criminal procedure hold that an officer in Florida is able to make an arrest without a warrant in a number of situations. These include situations where the officer witnesses a misdemeanor, situations where the officer has probable cause to believe that a felony has been perpetrated, and situations where the officer is aware of an outstanding arrest warrant another officer is holding. These rules vary from state to state and federal rules differ from state rules, though, so it is important to work with an experienced attorney. In cases where an officer doesn’t have probable cause to make an arrest, this is absolutely an issue that needs to be addressed.

Even in cases where the arrest is supported by probable cause, officers must follow established protocol, especially ensuring that the suspect is informed of and able to exercise his or her rights. Suspects should never voluntarily give up their constitutional rights without first speaking to an experienced attorney, especially when the charges are serious.

One important issue to consider with arrests as well is that it is not always clear to a suspect when an arrest has taken place. Usually, citizens are inclined to believe that when an officer approaches them with questions, they are bound to answer. In some cases, officers give the appearance of having the right to withhold a suspect without actually having a valid basis for doing so. Suspects can end up foolishly offering information or waiving constitutional rights if they don’t recognize that they have the right to decline interaction with an investigating officer. We’ll look at this important issue in our next post.

Sources:

FindLaw, “If You are Arrested in Florida,” Accessed March 6, 2015.

House Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives, “Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure,” Accessed March 6, 2015.

The Florida Bar Association, “Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure,” Accessed March 6, 2015. 

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