Warrantless Arrests and Searches (See Full Document for Citations)


In certain circumstances, a law enforcement officer may lawfully arrest a person without an arrest warrant. An officer may conduct a warrantless arrest if (1) the officer has probable cause to believe the arrestee has committed an offense in the officer's presence, (2) the officer has probable cause to believe the arrestee has committed a felony and the arrest occurs in a public place, or (3) the officer has probable cause for an arrest and the circumstances are “exigent.” After making a warrantless arrest, an officer must promptly secure a judicial determination of probable cause. The probable cause required to make a lawful warrantless arrest is identical to the probable cause required to secure an arrest warrant.

A warrant is, however, needed for an officer to enter and arrest a suspect in their home, unless (1) there is consent, or (2) there are exigent circumstances such as fear of imminent destruction of evidence, hot pursuit, or imminent threats to the safety of the public or officers. Courts disapprove of police conduct that creates exigent circumstances to justify a warrantless arrest in a suspect's home, but will often sustain such arrests when the police can demonstrate that their actions were motivated by legitimate law enforcement needs.

The special protections afforded to dwellings extend to rented premises, hotel rooms, and temporary residential arrangements, but not beyond the premises to hallways, common areas, areas outside the home's curtilage, or areas where there is no legitimate expectation of privacy. Even with an arrest warrant, police may not enter the home of a third person to arrest an individual not residing there unless the police have a search warrant, consent, or there are exigent circumstances. However, these protections extend only to the third-party resident and may not be asserted vicariously by the individual named in the arrest warrant. In determining whether the arrestee's Fourth Amendment rights are violated by a search or seizure in a third party's home, Payton controls.