Part 1: Lawful and Unlawful Arrests

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A person who is being arrested must be informed that he or she is being arrested. However, when a law enforcement officer is making the arrest, a visible badge or uniform is sufficient to inform the person that he or she is being arrested. For an arrest to be lawful, a law enforcement officer must also tell the person arrested what they are being arrested for. If telling the person what they are being arrested for is too dangerous—or will lead to an escape—can the officer making the arrest skip this requirement. When a law enforcement officer is making an arrest under a warrant, the person arrested must be informed of the warrant and shown the warrant if they ask the arresting officer.

What Is a Warrant?

A warrant is issued by a legal process from the court or another official body for the arrest of a person. An arrest warrant is typically for criminal charges; it may also be used in relation to mental health or guardianship issues. When the warrant is deemed “valid,” the person making the arrest cannot be sued in civil court for false arrest. A valid warrant must include:

  • The name of the court or other official issuing entity.
  • The arrested person’s name or description.
  • The offense or reason for the arrest.
  • Additional criminal procedure requirements to make a warrant valid depend on the jurisdiction.

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