Is a Warrant Always Needed for an Arrest?

Nov 18, 2021


There may be times when you're not sure whether the police have arrested you in a lawful way. Don't the police always need a warrant to make an arrest? Can they arrest you without one? You may not be sure about the answer, and it might help you to know whether the police followed due process while arresting you.


When the Police Officer Witnesses the Crime


In general, there are certain situations in which the police can make an arrest without a warrant. If the crime takes place in front of the policeman's eyes, they can arrest you for it. For example, if one person attacks another person right in front of a police officer, they can arrest that person.


When the Police Officer Has Probable Cause


There are certain situations when the police officer may not have witnessed the crime, but they can still arrest the person. This is when they have "probable cause" to believe that that person committed the crime. Now what exactly is probable cause? In layperson's terms, it just means having a good reason to believe that that person committed that crime.


For example, let's say the officer received was dispatched to the scene of a bank robbery.  On the way, he saw a vehicle that matched the exact description of the suspects vehicle involved in the robbery.  After stopping the suspect, he observed the suspect to have a bag of cash with the name of the bank on it, a ski mask, and a gun.  In that case, he would have a good reason to believe the person committed the offense, i.e. probable cause and could make an arrest. 


Arresting Someone in Their Home


If the police officer is arresting someone in their home, then they generally need a warrant. There are some exceptions to this rule. In the case of “hot pursuit”, they may not need a warrant to end the pursuit, for some crimes, and can go in the home. They may also be able to enter the home if there is an emergency, such as believing someone’s life is in danger if they don’t go in immediately. Or if they hear an altercation is going on inside the home, and someone might get hurt because of it, then the police officer can go in without waiting for a warrant. Also, if someone opens the door and lets them into the house, they can make an arrest without waiting for a warrant.


It’s a good idea to know how the law works in terms of warrants and arrests. Be sure to share any relevant information with your lawyer so that they can determine whether you were arrested in a lawful manner. Contact us for more information.

Category: Criminal Defense

Michael Mitchell


Michael Mitchell is a Fresno attorney who practices in the areas of DUI, personal injury & criminal law. Visit his Google+ profile.