A false arrest is an arrest that is made without legal justification. False arrest is also known as wrongful imprisonment that occurs when someone wrongfully holds you against your will depriving your freedom to leave and places you in custody. In order to make an arrest, a police officer must have probable cause that you committed a crime.

What Is Probable Cause?

Probable cause means that there are enough facts to lead a reasonable person to believe that you committed a crime. While an officer does not need to be positive that you committed the crime, he does need to have more than just suspicion. A judge will determine whether or not the officer's belief was reasonable enough to constitute probable cause.

Is It a False Arrest If the Police Don’t Have a Warrant?

Generally, no. As long as the police officer has probable cause to believe the arrest is justified, he does not need an arrest warrant making an arrest. Many believe that false arrest by a police officer is done when an officer arrests someone without adequate evidence, however that is not the standard measure. For law enforcement to be guilty of a false arrest, the police must act without authority and beyond the police powers they are generally entitled to.

False arrests are not only made by police officers and can be done by private citizens such as a private security guard or someone restraining someone without the other persons consent and without lawful authority. This would be known as false imprisonment.

If I Am Arrested but Didn't Commit a Crime?

The police would not be charged with false arrest as long as the police officer has a reasonable belief that you are guilty; he can arrest you whether or not you are actually guilty. As long as the police has legal authority to arrest you and has probable cause believing that you committed an unlawful act or a lawful act by unlawful means, a police officer can arrest you even if you end up not getting convicted of the crime in court.

What Are Some Examples of False Arrest?

False arrest occurs most commonly when the arresting officer has insufficient evidence to justify probable cause. Some examples of this include:

  • Arresting someone because of their age or race
  • Arresting someone without probable cause
  • Arresting someone without justification, just because the police dislikes him
  • Arresting someone solely because they are in an area known to have high crime rates
  • Detaining witnesses at a police station for questioning even though they are known to not have committed any crime

Should I Contact a Criminal Lawyer?

If you think you have been a victim of false arrest and your rights have been violated or you need legal representation, you should contact a local criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. You should never file a report for investigation or make any statements until you’ve had the chance to talk to an attorney. A qualified lawyer will be able to tell you if you have a valid case and advise you accordingly.