Along with filing charges, a prosecuting attorney will also request an arrest warrant for the suspect. Upon being issued, an arrest warrant allows law enforcement to find and detain the suspect until they can be seen by a judge. The length of detainment ranges. It can last from a few hours up to many months while the case proceeds through the criminal justice system. Once an arrest as been made, the state has shifted the momentum on the defendant. Although a defendant is entitled to multiple benefits during a trial, the arrest stage puts defendants in possibly the least advantageous position of the criminal proceedings.
An arrest following a warrant could be the second detainment an individual encounters. Remember, law enforcement needs probable cause before arresting a person without a warrant or charges having previously been filed. Law enforcement can detain a person for up to 48 hours to allow for further investigation based on just this probable cause. County of Riverside v. McLaughlin requires that after 48 hours either the state must file charges, or a judge must determine if the suspect should remain in custody. This rule does not “pause” for holidays or weekends. Therefore, an individual could be detained for a short period of time and then discharged awaiting additional investigation. This can also happen if an investigation doesn’t generate enough evidence to allow charges to be filed in that time period. Upon the district attorney’s office having enough evidence to support probable cause, charges are filed and then an arrest warrant will be issued. Law enforcement will then seek out the suspect to arrest them.
Executing the Arrest Warrant
Once a judge signs the arrest warrant, law enforcement will attempt to locate the suspect to arrest them. A valid arrest warrant allows law enforcement to search for the suspect at home, work, or any other place they could be found. Law enforcement may go to the suspect’s home and perform a knock-and-announce entry. This consists of law enforcement knocking on the door and announcing their presence and position (“Open up, police!”). If the suspect does not open the door immediately, the police may use force to enter the property. Courts are usually very pro-law enforcement in finding a knock-and-announce forced entry allowable: even a hesitation of only a few seconds might be sufficient to legitimize kicking down the door.
Once law enforcement has located and arrested the defendant, they can conduct a “search incident to arrest.” These SITLAs should be viewed in two parts: a personal search and a search of the immediate area around the defendant where they were arrested. The personal search is essentially a pat down of the defendant and includes a search of any bags located within the “wingspan” of the person. Further, when an individual is arrested inside a residence, law enforcement can search the immediate area for weapons or dangerous objects which the defendant could possibly reach or which could be concealing another individual who is possibly lying in wait to ambush the police. This immediate area includes opening of closet doors in the same or nearby rooms but does not authorize a full search of the entire residence. If evidence of criminal activity is found, even if not related to the activity for which the defendant is being arrested, that evidence can be seized by officers and then later used against the defendant.
Imagine the police going to a suspect’s home and then the suspect not being there. The arrest warrant remains active until the individual is located and arrested or the warrant is signed and returned to the court which issued it. Therefore, an individual could have an active warrant for an extended period of time without even knowing it. This could then lead to an individual being arrested during a routine traffic stop as their pertinent information will be ran through law enforcement’s database and officers will be notified of the outstanding arrest warrant. If this is the case, the individual will be arrested on the “old” charges which pertain to the arrest warrant as well as the “new” charges which pertain to the reason the officer stopped the individual to begin with. These “new” charges can then lead to an entirely new investigation against the individual and possibly another arrest warrant later on.
Once an individual is in custody, the police will usually try to question the person. Decades ago, this process was extremely prejudicial to the suspect, as officers would use underhanded techniques which thoroughly neglected the rights of the defendant. In response, the United States Supreme Court held in Miranda v. Arizona that officers are required to give an arrestee fair notice of their rights; which are known as Miranda warning. There are four basic rights and one assurance: (1) the right to remain silent; (2) the right of the state to use any statement against the defendant; (3) the right to an attorney; (4) the right to have an attorney appointed if the defendant cannot afford one; and (5) the assurance that the defendant understands each and every one of these rights.
The Miranda warnings are amicable, but they do not address one significant point: these rights have to be affirmatively asserted. This means that until a defendant states they wish to remain silent or speak with an attorney, law enforcement can barrage an individual with inquiries, deceit, and falsities.
produces a tremendous amount of evidence for the district attorney’s office. If arrested, the most important piece of advice is this: say one thing only— “I want my attorney.” Law enforcement are allowed to be dishonest to suspects and to only disclose half-truths regarding their constitutional rights during interrogations. Thus, even if a suspect thinks they have nothing to hide, these interrogations are specifically designed to generate valuable evidence for the state. These interrogations are not a friendly conversation about the incident at hand, as evidenced by the tactics police are allowed to use. The most crucial mistake an arrested individual can make is not using the rights the Constitution has granted to them.