Article was last updated: Sept. 5th, 2023

What is a false arrest? What is false imprisonment? If you believe that you have been the victim of a false arrest, an illegal detention, a false imprisonment, or another type of police misconduct in Virginia, arrange at once to discuss your rights with a Roanoke criminal defense attorney.

How does a false arrest happen in this state? If you believe that you have been wrongly detained, arrested, or imprisoned in Virginia, what are your legal rights? If someone is falsely detained or imprisoned, can the perpetrator be held legally accountable?

If you’ll keep reading, you will learn the answers to these questions, and you will also learn what steps you should take if you have been the victim of wrongful arrest, detainment, or imprisonment.

How Does the Constitution Protect You?

If you have been charged with a crime because the police used illegal tactics or procedures, you must contact a Roanoke criminal defense lawyer and explain what happened. Sadly, some police officers – and some police departments – still think that bending the rules is acceptable.

The U.S. Constitution protects you, your home, and your property from “unreasonable searches and seizures” including being detained for no reason other than an officer’s hunch. Legally speaking, the police cannot arrest you and then fabricate a reason for the arrest after the fact.

Most cases of false arrest happen when a police officer is overzealous. This could lead to you being detained or arrested illegally – meaning with no probable cause. When police officers make such arrests, the right attorney can hold them accountable.

What Are Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion?

Probable cause is what gives the police the legal right to arrest someone. Probable cause is not necessarily hard proof that a suspect committed a crime, but it is a higher standard than the “reasonable suspicion” standard necessary to detain temporarily or “pat down” a suspect.

Reasonable suspicion is a law enforcement officer’s reasonable presumption that a crime was, is being, or is about to be committed. Reasonable suspicion must be based on circumstances or facts and the police officer’s experience and training.

In a 1998 case (Jordan v. Shands), the Virginia Supreme Court held that “the direct restraint by one person of the physical liberty of another without adequate legal justification” constitutes false imprisonment.

False arrest or false imprisonment is an intentional restriction of a person’s freedom of movement without legal right. A false imprisonment results from the intentional use of force, words, or acts which the person restrained is afraid to ignore or to which he reasonably believes he must submit.

When Is it Legal for the Police to Detain You?

However, several different types of detentions that do not result in arrests are legally and routinely made by the police. Almost all of us have been briefly detained for a traffic stop.

When you are pulled over in traffic, the police are exercising their legal authority to detain you briefly, and if you try to leave before being told that you are free to go, you will probably be placed under arrest – legally.

It is actually legal for a police officer to detain you briefly on the street, ask you questions, and even ask to see identification if they have reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity. Such stops are known as “Terry stops” based on the 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Terry v. Ohio.

You can also be briefly and legally detained by the police when they are investigating criminal activities and reasonably believe that you can provide pertinent information, but such a brief detention, by itself, is not an arrest.

If You Are Detained by the Police

Usually, if you are detained and questioned in a criminal investigation, it is best to be polite and show some identification, but you have the right to remain silent, even if you aren’t arrested and your rights are not read to you. Just politely say, “I prefer to exercise my right to remain silent.”

You can also ask why you are being detained and whether you are under arrest or free to leave, but do not antagonize or argue with the police. If you are detained illegally, or if you are legally arrested and charged with a crime, contact a Virginia criminal defense attorney immediately.

Does a Legal Arrest Require an Arrest Warrant?

Virginia police officers are not always required to obtain an arrest warrant before making an arrest. In some circumstances, such as DUI (driving under the influence) cases, warrantless arrests are made routinely and legally. The police in Virginia can make a warrantless arrest if:

  1. Someone commits a crime in a police officer’s presence or a crime that a police officer clearly observes.
  2. A police officer has reasonable grounds for probable cause to believe that a suspect has committed a felony.

How Can You Help Your Attorney?

If you are being arrested, do not try to resist arrest – even a wrongful or illegal arrest. Instead, try to remember the details of the incident, give your attorney the best possible account of what happened, and let your attorney recommend the best way to move forward with legal action.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense as the result of a wrongful arrest or an illegal detention, a Roanoke criminal defense attorney – in some cases – may be able to have the charge against you entirely dropped or dismissed.

If you are falsely arrested, illegally detained, or the victim of some other police misconduct in Virginia, and if you and your attorney can prove it, you may even be able to bring a lawsuit and win damages against those who victimized you.

If the Police Violated Your Rights

You have the right to sue someone who, while acting as a government employee, violates your constitutional rights. Government employees may not violate anyone’s constitutional or legal rights, and the victims of such violations may seek monetary damages.

Police officers have been held accountable with civil lawsuits for misconduct that has included false arrests, illegal detentions, and even the planting of evidence. A defense attorney who also handles civil injury claims can determine if you have grounds for legal action.

Overwhelmingly, the majority of Virginia’s police officers conduct themselves properly and legally, but in any police agency, the bad police officers work right alongside the good ones. If you are victimized by police misconduct, talk to an attorney in the Roanoke area immediately.