What is a Criminal Arrest?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 January 2020
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A criminal arrest is an arrest on criminal charges. Usually such arrests are performed by law enforcement officers acting on a warrant or responding to an emergency situation. However, it is also possible for citizens to conduct a criminal arrest, retaining someone until law enforcement can arrive to take over. People should be very careful when conducting a citizen's arrest, because if it is not done properly, the person who was arrested may have grounds for a lawsuit.

Being arrested does not mean that someone is guilty of a crime. It simply means that law enforcement officers have reason to suspect that someone may have committed a crime or that someone knows something about a crime. In a criminal arrest, the suspect is taken to a police facility for booking, in which demographic information is recorded and photographs and fingerprints are taken.


Once someone has been arrested, an arraignment must be conducted to read the charges so that the suspect understands what he or she is accused of. If there are no charges, the suspect must be released within a certain time period, as for instance if someone is arrested on suspicion of murder and it becomes evident that the suspect did not commit the crime. While under criminal arrest, the detainee has a number of rights which can vary by country. Generally he or she must be provided with food and water, access to a lawyer, and a secure environment. Law enforcement officers are allowed to question the suspect, but in some nations the suspect can refuse to answer questions without the presence of a lawyer.

After a criminal arrest and arraignment, the suspect may be released on bail. Bail is offered when it is believed that the person is likely to return to court to face the charges. The amount of bail can vary depending on the charges and the suspect. If the suspect is freed on bail and does not return on the court date, the bail is forfeit and cannot be retrieved.

Once someone has been arrested, it goes on that person's police record. However, the record will also note the outcome of the arrest. Someone who is arrested on suspicion of a crime and later cleared of that crime should not experience negative impacts as a result, because the record will clearly indicate what happened. People may be required to report any arrest history on an employment application or background check.


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Post 3

What if your state doesn't allow it?

Post 2

@starrynight - That's a good idea about getting your arrest record expunged. Not all arrests end in a guilty verdict, but some employers really do look negatively on having an arrest record of any kind.

I'm kind of fascinated by the idea of a citizens arrest. I feel like it's good that people can get sued if they do it wrong though. If there were no consequences to a wrongful citizens arrest, I think a lot of people would abuse it!

Post 1

If you've been arrested, but were never charged with a crime, you can get your record expunged in most states. When you get your record expunged, the whole incident is erased like it never even happened.

This is beneficial because you don't have to disclose it on an employment application. So, even if you have been arrested, if you get your record expunged successfully, you can say no if a future employer asks if you've been arrested.

I think expungement is the best option, if your state allows it. That way even being arrested and not charged won't be able to tarnish your reputation with a future employer.

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