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Criminal defense issues: Was the arrest legal?

Being taken into custody by police can be a frightening experience whether it happens here in Florida or elsewhere. It is often the first step in facing charges for an alleged violation of criminal law. While most people focus on contesting the charge, a complete criminal defense will also look into whether the arrest was even legal.

In making this determination, the primary factor is whether the officer had a legal reason to make the arrest. In many cases, the officer needs to establish probable cause, which means that certain circumstances and facts led him or her to believe that an individual committed a crime, or was about to do so. The officer does not need to witness the alleged offense to develop the necessary probable cause.

However, if an officer does witness a crime, it creates an event in which an officer can make an arrest. For example, if a Florida police officer sees an erratically moving vehicle, he or she may pull over that vehicle to question the driver. If the driver slurs speech, smells of alcohol or fails field sobriety tests, he or she may end up arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.

If an officer submits a sworn statement to the court outlining certain facts, a judge may issue an arrest warrant. The execution of that warrant could constitute a legal arrest. Even so, a review of the facts used to obtain the warrant, along with any evidence supporting it, could reveal a legal weakness since the court must rely on the officer's statements when issuing it.

In fact, all of these scenarios require some sort of subjective analysis of the available facts on the part of the officer. A thorough review of the circumstances surrounding the arrest could reveal that a Florida resident's constitutional rights were violated, or the officer failed to follow the correct procedures. If this happens, it could significantly affect any case against that individual. For this reason alone, a review of the arrest is crucial to any criminal defense.

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