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Do the Police Need a Warrant to Make an Arrest?

The police can arrest you without first obtaining a warrant if they reasonably believe that they saw you committing a crime or in response to a statement from an alleged victim.

The police do not have the right to arrest people unless there is compelling evidence that the person has committed a crime. The arrest must be in connection to a specific alleged crime; “he looks like trouble” is not a legally valid reason to arrest someone. This often means that the police must ask the judge for a warrant to arrest a person that they suspect of committing a crime. The judge will only issue the warrant if the police submit sworn statements or other evidence to show that there is probable cause for making an arrest. Sometimes the arrest only happens after a long investigation. For example, a confidential informant in a drug trafficking case may record his or her conversations with suspected drug dealers. In another scenario, police might seek a warrant after collecting DNA evidence from a murder scene and matching it with DNA in a forensic database. Not all arrests arise from complex investigations, though. You probably know someone who got pulled over for a minor driving mistake and, several minutes later, was handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser; maybe that person was you. If you were arrested without a warrant, contact an Atlanta criminal defense lawyer.

Traffic Stops and Other Situations Where Police Arrest Defendants in the Moment

In order to make an arrest, police must have probable cause to suspect you of a specific crime. This usually means probable cause to obtain a warrant, but it can also mean probable cause to believe that they have caught you in the act. This is why so many arrests arise from traffic stops. Seeing illegal drugs or an open container of alcohol in the car constitutes probable cause, and so does seeing you drive past at a dangerously high speed. Not all in the moment arrests involve traffic stops. Police can arrest you if they see you buying or consuming illegal drugs, stealing, or assaulting someone.

Arrests in Response to an Accusation

Statements by alleged witnesses and alleged victims can count as probable cause for obtaining an arrest warrant, but the law assumes that an in the moment accusation warrants an in the moment arrest. If your wife calls 911 and tells the police that you just hit her, they can go straight to your house and arrest you; they don’t have to wait for the court to open on Monday morning so they can get a warrant. The same happens if retail store employees say that they saw you shoplifting. Police can go to the store, watch the surveillance camera tape, and then arrest you before you even leave the mall.

Contact an Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

A criminal defense lawyer can help you if police arrested you without first obtaining an arrest warrant. Contact the defense lawyers at Ghanayem & Rayasam in Atlanta, Georgia about criminal defense cases.