Do Police Need a Warrant to Make an Arrest in California?

State and local police in California are required to follow not only California law in making arrests but also to respect your rights under the U.S. Constitution, which includes the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. An arrest is a seizure, and thus police must have either an arrest warrant or some other justifiable reason under the law to make an arrest. If not, your arrest may have been illegal, which could be a critical aspect of your defense. An experienced criminal defense attorney will scrutinize your arrest and other interactions with the police to find your best defenses to any charges, but below is a brief overview of when police can legally make arrests in California.

Obtaining an Arrest Warrant

Police may arrest you if they have a warrant, which is a legal document signed by a magistrate judge. The warrant can only be obtained if the officer presenting the warrant to the judge provided enough information to indicate there was probable cause that you committed the crime. Officers are not permitted to knowingly present false information to obtain the warrant and, if they do, the warrant is invalid.

Making a Felony Arrest Without a Warrant

An officer does not have to obtain an arrest warrant, however, in order to execute an arrest for a felony crime or a crime that may be a felony or misdemeanor based on how the facts of the alleged offense sort out.

An officer must have probable cause to make such an arrest, however, which means that there are facts and circumstances available to the officer at the time of the arrest (and not later after the police have interrogated and/or searched an arrestee) which would lead the officer to reasonably believe the individual has committed a crime or is attempting to do so.

Notably, the officer does not need to have observed the events himself and can rely on information provided by others in forming probable cause in making a felony arrest.

Making a Misdemeanor Arrest Without a Warrant

With most misdemeanors, however, a police officer may not make an arrest unless it was committed in the officer’s presence, although the officer did not necessarily have to see the offense occurring. There are some limited exceptions to this requirement of presence, however, and officers may make some misdemeanor arrests for crimes not committed in their presence including:

  • DUI
  • Domestic violence
  • Some gun charges
  • Some assault charges

California does allow for citizens’ arrests as well, and police may take custody from a citizen has arrested a person who committed a crime in their presence.

Speak further with an experienced California criminal defense attorney to determine whether your arrest was legal and your best options for defense.  

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California

If you have been placed under arrest for a felony or misdemeanor in California, it is important to work with criminal defense attorneys who will fight for your rights. At the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum and Associates, PLC, our experienced criminal defense attorneys will work with you from the very start to reach a positive outcome: a dropped investigation, a dismissal of charges, a not guilty verdict, a reduced sentence, or alternative program. Call the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum and Associates, PLC today to get your best defense now.