Laws of Arrest and the Fourth Amendment Essay

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the laws of arrest considering the reasonableness requirements of the Fourth Amendment. The paper will discuss the types of contact between the police and citizens, types of arrests, post-arrest probable cause determination, the procurement and execution of arrest warrants, summons and citations, use of force during arrest and arrests in fresh pursuit. The discussion will include an analysis of major court cases relating to the laws of arrest and the Fourth Amendment. The paper concludes that the analysis of various aspects of the laws of an arrest shows that the U.S constitution recognizes the need to protect the rights of individuals during and after arrests. It recommends the need for law enforcement officers to ensure that their conduct when making an arrest is constitutional.

Laws of Arrest and the Fourth Amendment

INTRODUCTION

The constitution recognizes three forms of contact between the police and citizens. These contacts are consensual encounters, investigatory stops and complete arrests. A consensual encounter involves the voluntary communication and interaction between a citizen and a police officer. This encounter is not a seizure. Therefore, it does not have to conform to the reasonableness requirements of the Fourth Amendment. A typical consensual encounter involves the police officer questioning a citizen about matters such as his conduct, reasons for being at a location and identification without the officer restricting the citizen’s freedom of movement, speech or other aspects of the citizen’s liberty. The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. It enables individuals to go about their day-to-day activities without the unreasonable interference by law enforcement officers. A seizure occurs when a citizen has an objective reason to consider that he is not free to terminate his interaction and communication with the police officer. The two categories of seizure recognized by the Fourth Amendment are arrests and investigatory stops. An arrest or seizure must conform to the Fourth Amendment requirements for reasonableness (Kanovitz, 2014). The classification of a seizure depends on its duration and level of intrusion. An investigatory stop is generally a seizure implemented to conduct a brief investigation. Such a seizure occurs when a traffic officer stops a motorist to check a car occupant with appearances matching the descriptions of a wanted criminal. Reasonable suspicion is necessary for a police officer to execute an investigatory stop. An investigatory stop becomes an arrest when the seizure lasts for a long time or is too intrusive. For example, a police officer who arrests a suspected motorist and takes him to the police station for questioning has made an arrest.

DISCUSSION

Definitions and elements of arrest

An arrest must have four elements in order to meet the requirements of a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The first element is the intent. The police officer must have made the decision to arrest or detain the individual until he faces the due process of the law. The main consideration in evaluating this element is the determination whether a reasonable person thought he was under arrest. The second element is the authority. This element concerns the federal and state laws giving police officers the power to arrest and detain suspects. An officer’s authority to make an arrest exists in his duties, responsibilities and arrest warrants. Any seizure of another person without the demonstration of legal authority does not qualify as an arrest (Jenkins 2011, p. 287). The third element is subjection or restraint. This element concerns the arrestee’s submission to a police officer’s authority or the physical control of the officer over the subject. In the case California v. Hodari (1991), the U.S Supreme Court ruled that the cocaine tabled as evidence in court was not a product of unlawful search and seizure because there was no application of physical force by the officer. Furthermore, Hodari had not submitted to officer’s authority at the time the officer seized the cocaine (Samaha 2011, p. 77). The final element is the understanding. This element concerns the realization by the suspect that he is under arrest. A police officer can announce the arrest or the circumstances of the seizure may cause the individual to realize that he is under arrest.  

Authority to arrest with a warrant

An arrest warrant is an order issued by a court instructing a police officer to seize a person in connection with an offense. It shifts the discretion of determining the reasonableness of an arrest from the police officer to the magistrate or judge. While police officers do not require warrants to make most arrests, some situations require that police officers procure an arrest warrant. First, a crime that occurs outside the presence of an officer requires an arrest warrant. For example, the police need a warrant to arrest a suspect based on their investigation of a reported crime. Secondly, the police need a warrant to enter a private residence and make a routine arrest. In the case Payton v. New York (1980), the U.S Supreme Court ruled that a New York law authorizing warrantless entries to make routine arrests was unconstitutional (Carmen & Walker 2015, p. 44). The Court emphasized that a warrant issued by a neutral magistrate or judge is important in the absence of special circumstances. An arrest is unconstitutional if a police officer arrests a suspect inside his home without a valid arrest warrant even if the officer had reasonable grounds for the arrest.

Arrest without a warrant

A police officer can arrest a suspect without a warrant in various situations. First, an officer does not need a warrant to arrest a suspect who commits a felony or misdemeanor in the presence of the officer. The officer can establish a probable cause using any of the five human senses. For example, a police officer can arrest without a warrant a person seen breaking into a shop. Secondly, an officer does not need a warrant to make arrests for crimes committed in public areas. A warrantless arrest in public is valid even if the officer has the opportunity to procure an arrest warrant. In the case United States v. Watson (1976), the U.S Supreme Court ruled that the warrantless arrest and search of Watson did not violate the Fourth Amendment. The Court argued that the arrest occurred in a public place with the concerned officer having a probable cause (Oyez, United States v. Watson). Thirdly, a police officer can make a warrantless arrest during exigent circumstances. These circumstances include situations such as hot pursuit, the possibility of the disappearance of the suspect or risk of the suspect causing harm to the victim or public and damage to property. In the case Warden v. Hayden (1967), the Supreme Court ruled that the police did not need a warrant to enter and search the suspect’s house considering the hot pursuit. It would have been impractical for the police to procure an arrest warrant because the resulting delay would have allowed the suspect to escape (Carmen & Walker 2015, p. 94).

Post-arrest probable cause determination

The U.S constitution protects the rights of suspects before and during an arrest. An unreasonable seizure occurs when the police officer does not have a reasonable cause for the seizure, fails to procure a warrant in a situation where it is necessary or applies excessive force in effecting a seizure. The reasonable grounds for a seizure should be such that the police officer knows the facts needed to support the suspicion leading to the seizure. Strong facts are needed to support the higher degree of suspicion needed to make an arrest in comparison to the degree of suspicion required for an investigatory stop. An officer who undertakes a seizure without adequate grounds to support his actions violates the Fourth Amendment. The determination of probable cause by a police officer during an arrest does not provide the legal grounds for detaining a suspect for an extended duration. A judge or magistrate must determine the validity of the probable cause leading to a warrantless arrest because there had been no such determination in advance. The main objective of the post-arrest review of probable cause is to prevent the unconstitutional detention of suspects. An analysis of the aspects of the post-arrest probable cause determination shows that the procedure is necessary for individuals taken into custody without a warrant of arrest and those who have not secured a release on bail. The judicial review of post-arrest probable cause should occur within 48 hours of a warrantless arrest in the absence of extraordinary circumstances. In the case Gerstein v. Pugh (1975), the Supreme Court concluded that a probable cause determination undertaken by a party independent of the law enforcement officers and the prosecutor was a requirement in the extended detention of a suspect (Walker & Hemmens 2015, p. 93).

Procedures for obtaining warrantsThe first step in obtaining an arrest warrant is the submission of a written affidavit by the police officer before a judge or magistrate demonstrating the probable cause for the arrest of a suspect. The affidavit must provide facts showing that an offense occurred and the said suspect committed the offense. Secondly, the judge or magistrate will evaluate the affidavit and the attached documents and testimonies to determine whether a probable cause exists for the complaints made against the suspect (Bergman & Berman, 2015). The judge or magistrate will issue an arrest warrant if he determin

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