As a Mesa Criminal Law Attorney, one of the most common questions I am asked is: “what do I do if I am ever arrested?”  This is a great question that actually addresses many areas of criminal law which most people would benefit from having a discussion or little bit of information about. First, let’s discuss what an arrest actually is. Technically speaking, an arrest is when a law-enforcement officer has detained someone temporarily.  The fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows for an officer to detain someone if there is probable cause to support that action.  Because being arrested technically means being detained by a police officer it doesn’t necessarily have to include the words “you are under arrest.” Being arrested does not always mean that you’re in cuffs and in the back of a police cruiser.   Nearly everyone has, at some point in time, been pulled over by police officer who, after receiving their license, insurance and registration tells them to “stay in your car, I’ll be back in a minute.”  While that person has not been told that they are under arrest, clearly they are being detained by a police officer pursuant to the authority granted under the fourth amendment to the United States Constitution.  In this example, if the officer runs the individual’s name, and find out that they have an active arrest warrant, then he will come back to the vehicle, have individual step out of the vehicle and say those dreadful words: “you are under arrest”.  There are many circumstances under which someone could be arrested but the most common include: having an active arrest warrant served, being arrested as a part of a police investigation and being arrested for conduct an officer observes that authorizes him to arrest based on a finding of probable cause.

Another important subject under this topic is who can arrest you. Any law enforcement officer in the state of Arizona is authorized to conduct an arrest upon a finding of probable cause or the issuance of an arrest warrant. That could include any of the municipal, city or town police departments, the Arizona Department of Public Safety or any of the sheriffs’ offices throughout the state.  It is important to note that every law enforcement agency develops its own policies and procedures for the circumstances under which they will arrest somebody. Just because an officer has probable cause to arrest does not mean that he has to make an arrest and book the individual into jail. He has the option, if policy permits, to make the arrest, issue a citation for the offense and then release the individual right there on the spot.  It is important, if you are ever in this circumstance, to make sure that you sign the citation. Signing a citation is merely indicating that you promise to appear at the designated court time on the citation. It is not an admission of guilt or acknowledgment of culpability for any of the things that may be stated in the citation.  Refusal to sign a citation is a basis for an officer to arrest you and book you and take you in front of a judge.

If you are ever placed under arrest there are several things that are going to happen in connection with that act. First of all, most law-enforcement agencies, regardless of age, race, gender or general attitude toward the place will place you in handcuffs with your hands behind your back and put you some place where you are not going to hurt yourself or someone else (e.g. the back of the police car).  Generally, I would advise anyone who finds themselves under arrest to not cooperate with the police investigation. This means that they should not make statements or participate in questioning by the police. This does not mean that they should be uncooperative or rude or belligerent with the police.  There is never a circumstance where anyone would be justified in resisting arrest, even if, (and especially if) that arrest is unlawful or illegal or a HUGE mistake. The only way to challenge an arrest like this is through subsequent legal actions. Resisting arrest, even moderately will result in additional charges being filed for resisting arrest.  In addition, if in the act of resisting arrest, the arresting officer is touched in an assaultive manner, the charge of aggravated assault will likely be added as well.  Resisting, running or attempting to evade capture merely makes a bad situation even worse.

Another important “don’t” at the time of arrest would be DON’T try to talk yourself out of whatever trouble you think you might be in.  Police officers use this trick quite effectively to get people to make statements.  People are mistaken by the assumption that if they are under arrest, then they are automatically going to be booked.  They then make the decision to attempt to talk the officer out whatever he has decided to do.  They will make admissions to the officer attempting to excuse or explain their behavior.  They will beg and plead with the officer not to arrest because it will have negative effects on their work, marriage, education etc…  This NEVER works and the statement will ALWAYS be used later as a means of incriminating the suspect.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please feel free to contact Mesa Criminal Attorney, Garrett L. Smith at 480-540-6021 log on to, or contact an attorney in your area.