The term arrest in Los Angeles obviously refers to the police coming in contact with somebody and deciding to take them into custody for a crime. There are all kinds of way the police can come into contact with somebody and arrest them. They can pull them over on the road, they can issue a search warrant at their house and arrest them, they can actually get themselves an arrest warrant, or basically they can just have a pocket arrest which means that they know somebody has committed a crime and they’re looking for them and once they find them, they’re going to arrest them.
Now where things get interesting as far as the arrest concept goes in Los Angeles, is the difference between an arrest and a detention, and it’s a fine line. It’s a very important distinction, because if the police unlawfully arrest somebody, then anything that they gather after that unlawful arrest can be suppressed by the defense. Basically, meaning because the arrest is illegal – everything they get is illegal and can’t be used against them in their criminal case. So, what the police try to do and of course, the prosecutors back them up, they either handcuff somebody and put them in a car and try to claim that it’s a detention and not an arrest.
For a detention, less is needed – sometimes for officer’s safety – they can detain somebody. Maybe they’re in the middle of an investigation – they can detain somebody and talk to them and it doesn’t amount to arrest. So, there’s case law on both arrest and detention in Los Angeles County. Again, it’s really a fine line. What I’m seeing is great defense attorneys have won some big cases and got evidence thrown out by saying that they’re client was illegally arrested with no probable cause to believe there was criminal activity afoot, and therefore, anything that was found violated their constitutional rights and they should be set free.
So, the bottom line is this. These cases of whether they’re an arrest or a detention hinge upon real key facts and hinge upon the totality of the circumstances related to the case. So, if you feel like you were unlawfully arrested and there was evidence gathered against you, you’re going to need to get in front of a criminal defense attorney who knows what they’re doing. I’ve been doing this for twenty-five years. I’ve handled a lot of cases where my clients have been unlawfully arrested and I have been able to get the case thrown out.
Sometimes the police make a bunch of claims and then other evidence is uncovered afterwards to show that it really truly was an unlawful arrest. I can’t tell you how many times recently with this whole video – dash cam video, people on the streets with video and body cam video now – some of the things that the police are claiming are now being up-ended by this other evidence. So, an illegal arrest is a real important concept in criminal defense and it happens all the time and it’s up to somebody who knows what they’re doing to figure out exactly how the person was arrested, what information the police had and what can be done to suppress the evidence.
My clients tell me all the time that it was an unlawful arrest, but a lot of times it’s a matter of their word against the police’s words, and sometimes what ends up happening is if the police can get the goods on the person, now that kind of discredits them and their arrest looks more valid than if the police had actually gotten no information, because then what ends up happening is they just let them go because they can’t get them for the crime. So, that’s the big disadvantage. When somebody is arrested, usually the police end up finding some sort of evidence against them to be able to prosecute them for a crime which again makes them look bad, and so a lot of times that gives the police the upper hand when it comes to the argument as to whether or not they unlawfully arrested a person.
This whole detention concept in my opinion is just a ridiculous way for the courts to try to help the police circumvent people’s constitutional rights. The bottom line is – what’s happened is we all have constitutional rights. We all have a right against unreasonable searches and seizures and unreasonable arrests. What’s happening is, as cases are being won by the defense, the courts are seeing that so now they’re trying to manipulate the law to call things a detention or taking away people’s Miranda rights.
So, no matter how you slice it, if you want to fight your case, if you feel like you’ve been treated unfairly, you’re going to need an attorney who has been down this road before and has had success. If I feel like somebody has been unlawfully arrested, I will file a search and seizure motion or whatever motion is appropriate based on the circumstances of your case and I will argue to the judge that this person was unlawfully arrested and anything that was obtained as a result of that unlawful arrest in California is basically fruit of the original poisonous arrest – fruit of the poisonous tree as they say – and it should all be thrown out and the prosecutors should not be allowed to use it in their case-in-chief in order to prosecute my client.
If you want somebody, get them fair and square. Don’t unlawfully arrest them. You can’t just stop and rough people up for no reason. You’ve got to have the evidence. You’ve got to have the information to be able to do a lawful arrest, otherwise the police should have never arrested the person in the first place.
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