A person does not need to be in handcuffs or in the back of a police car in order to be “arrested.” An arrest occurs when, after considering all the circumstances surrounding the incident, the defendant reasonably believes he or she is not free to leave.
When can Police Officers Make an Arrest Without a Warrant
Below are two specific instances when officers can make an arrest without a warrant. Note that the second instance inevitably covers most felony arrests since police officers can simply wait until an offender enters a public place (street, sidewalk, etc.) to make a lawful arrest.
- Crime in the Presence of an Officer. When an officer has probable cause to believe that a defendant committed a crime in the officer’s presence, the officer does not need a warrant to make an arrest.
- Arrest in a Public Place. If an officer has probable cause to believe that a felony has occurred, the officer does not need a warrant to arrest a defendant if the defendant is in a public place.
When a Police Officer Needs an Arrest Warrant
An arrest warrant is needed in most other situations that are not covered by the two exceptions listed above.
Law enforcement officers usually need a warrant to make an arrest inside of a home. In order for officer’s to obtain an arrest warrant granting them permission to make an arrest inside of a home, they usually must have a reasonable belief that the defendant lives in the home/residence they’re entering, and that the defendant is likely to be there when they seek to make the arrest. However, if there are emergency circumstances, such as a reasonable fear that evidence will be destroyed, that defendant will flee, or someone will be harmed, a law enforcement officer may be justified in entering the home to make the arrest.