Arrest: History, Procedure & Information

Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

Learn about the history of arrests. Review the arrest procedure and examine what kind of information is required in order for police to make an arrest. Upon completion of this lesson, you should have a thorough understanding of arrests.


Chances are you have seen someone get arrested--either in real life or on a television program. Hopefully, you have not been arrested yourself. In any of these instances, you will recall that the police place handcuffs on the person, read a set of rights to him, and take him or her into custody. This looks like all there is to the arrest process. Well, there is a lot more that goes into the procedure.

While the arrest of individuals dates back well into the Middle Ages, the history of arresting individuals based upon the current U.S. statutory system can be traced to early Anglo-Saxon law, where individuals could be arrested for committing crimes. Over the centuries, the law evolved into statutes and then interpreted in case law.

Currently, one can be arrested in any state in the U.S. if there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that a certain person committed the crime. We will discuss probable cause in the next section.


An arrest occurs when an individual is physically taken into police custody, against the individual's will, for interrogation or prosecution. The person is usually placed in handcuffs and taken to a police station or jail. At this time, the Miranda Warnings (or 'Miranda Rights') are read to the person. The Miranda Warnings are warnings which tell the suspect that they have certain rights against self-incrimination, such as the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Once that person has been arrested, they are unable to leave and are in police custody.

When the police seek to make an arrest, they need to have what is known as probable cause. Probable cause exists where there is enough evidence against someone to believe that the person committed a crime. In other words, the police cannot just have a hunch or mere suspicion that maybe a person committed a crime; there must be more significant evidence to demonstrate that the person committed the crime. A judge will determine if there was sufficient probable cause to make an arrest.

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