Wrongful arrest can be defined as the unlawful restraint of a person’s freedom of movement. It involves arresting a person without the legal authority to do so. An arrest made by a police officer without probable cause is a wrongful arrest and a violation of your Constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment.

What Must You Demonstrate to Prove Wrongful Arrest?

If a police officer does not have a warrant to arrest you or conduct a search that could lead to an arrest, he or she must have probable cause to believe that you have committed or will commit a crime. Police use subjective judgment to determine if criminal activity is occurring. To seek damages from an officer who wrongfully arrested you, it will be necessary to show that the officer had no reasonable suspicion that you had engaged or were about to engage in any criminal activity.

It is not only police officers who commit wrongful arrests. It can be committed by a security guard or a store owner or manager. To prove you have been wrongfully arrested, you must show that:

  • The person who made the arrest intended to confine you.
  • The person who made the arrest was aware of the confinement.
  • You did not consent to confinement.
  • Nothing you did justifies legal confinement.

The police officer or person who committed the wrongful arrest must have done so purposefully and with intent to arrest you. The key element in wrongful arrest is whether or not it was legally justified.

What Is Probable Cause?

Probable cause is reasonable grounds for making a search, arrest, etc. It is a requirement under the Fourth Amendment that must be met in most cases before police receive a warrant from a judge, conduct a search, or make an arrest. The Fourth Amendment protects “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. . .”

Probable cause for an arrest exists when circumstances and facts known by the officer would lead a reasonable person to believe that the suspect has committed, is committing, or will commit a crime. It must be based on objective facts, not on a hunch or a feeling. Evidence required to show probable cause is less than a preponderance of the evidence (the standard used to prove facts in court), but it requires more than reasonable suspicion.

To have probable cause, a police officer does not need to observe a crime in progress personally. Information from an eyewitness or a victim could be enough to show probable cause and justify an arrest.

What Bearing Does Guilt or Innocence Have on Wrongful Arrest?

The primary question in a wrongful arrest is whether the facts at the time of the arrest would have led a reasonable person to believe that the suspect had committed a crime. This is true regardless of whether or not the suspect was guilty of the alleged offense. Wrongful arrest relies entirely on the facts that led to the arrest.

Why Do You Need the Services of an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer for Wrongful Arrest?

If you are facing charges in Colorado and you believe you were wrongfully arrested, it is crucial to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Protection under the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure is one of the most fundamental legal protections we have against overreach of law enforcement, and it depends on the finding of probable cause.

A Denver criminal defense lawyer at Welsh Law L.L.C. can thoroughly examine the circumstances surrounding your arrest and protect your rights under the law. Contact us for a free initial consultation at (720) 836-1777.