When can I be arrested by the police?
1. You may be arrested by a police officer who personally saw you violate any statute, city ordinance, or federal law. The law may be a serious crime (a felony) or a lesser offense (a misdemeanor). The important thing is that the officer sees the violation.
Whether the police can arrest you for minor traffic violations depends on state law. In Texas, for example, one can be arrested for infractions as minor as not wearing a seat belt. This practice was, unfortunately, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Atwater v. Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318 (2001).
2. You may be arrested for a felony, even if the police officer did not personally see you commit the felony, so long as the officer had "probable cause" to believe that the crime was committed by you. Later, the court system (not the police) will determine if the officer was reasonable in that belief and if you are guilty or innocent.
3. You may be arrested when there is a warrant for your arrest, whether you are aware of the warrant or not. The police cannot cancel a warrant in existence. They must serve it and arrest the person named on the warrant.
An arrest warrant is a legal document issued by a judge or a clerk of courts, and it directs the police or the sheriff to arrest you and take you into custody. This document does not have to be on any particular form. The arresting officer is not required to have the warrant in hand at the time you are arrested. The officer must SHOW THE WARRANT TO YOU WITHIN A REASONABLE TIME after you are arrested and GIVE YOU A COPY. If the officer fails to do so, tell your attorney later. This is information for you to know and discuss with your attorney.
Even is you believe the officer has no grounds to arrest you, do not argue with or resist the police. You have no right to argue about why you are being arrested or about your guilt or innocence at the time of the arrest. Arguing or resisting the police will not help you; it will mean the police can bring additional criminal charges against you; and it may make it harder for you to get out of jail on bail if you are charged.
- Again, do not argue with the police.
- Never resist your arrest.
- Do not run away.
- Never resist the arrest of another person.