What To Do In Case Of Unlawful Arrest

People get arrested each and every day, with statistics showing that over 10 million individuals across America will be arrested annually for crimes ranging from robbery and arson to drunkenness and vandalism.

However, while the vast majority of arrests are perfectly lawful, with good reason behind them, there are cases where people may feel that they are being arrested unlawfully. What constitutes an unlawful arrest and what should you do if your rights were violated? Read on to find out.

What Is an Unlawful Arrest?

An unlawful arrest, or false arrest, is one in which a person is arrested without any legal justification or without an arrest warrant. This term can also be applied if a person is held against their will unlawfully and without justification. 

Both law enforcement officers and private individuals can be accused of false arrest, and there are various situations covered by the term, such as arrests of the wrong person, arrests without probable cause, arrests made for personal gain, or arrests based on a person’s ethnicity.

In many cases, those who fall victim to unlawful arrest work together with lawyers to file lawsuits against the arresting officer and their police department.

Resisting an Unlawful Arrest 

In some states, it is legally allowed to resist unlawful arrest with reasonable force. In other states, this is not the case. So the first thing to do is find out what the rules are in your location and be aware of your rights, depending on where you are.

If the state you’re located in does allow for resisting unlawful arrests, you may be authorized to use a reasonable amount of force to resist, but again, the precise rules on this can vary from state to state, and using force against police officers often leads to additional complications.

There have been some cases that show how an individual may forcefully resist an arrest, such as a case in 2012 in Georgia, where a young man kicked his legs and threw his arms around to escape an arm-bar from an arresting officer who found him near the site of a shooting.

In that case, the Court of Appeals found that the young man in question was justified in using reasonable force to resist the unlawful arrest. However, this is just one case, and there are many others that show resistance to be a dangerous option.

The Caveats 

Even though resisting unlawful arrest can be legal in certain locations, most experts would advise against it, for several reasons. To start with, using any kind of force against police officers can cause situations to rapidly degrade.

Using violence or responding forcefully to any attempt of arrest may lead to you getting harmed by the police, should they defend themselves. There have been cases where arrestees become injured by resisting arrests they believe to be unlawful, and this can lead to all kinds of additional complications.

There’s also the case that you might believe your arrest to be unlawful when in reality, it isn’t. Even if you’re perfectly innocent of any crime, if the police have probable cause to believe that you have broken the lawn, they have the right to initiate an arrest.

If you then choose to resist that arrest, you aren’t technically exercising your right to resist an unlawful arrest; instead, you’re simply resisting arrest, which is a crime that you can later be charged for, even if you’re found to be innocent of the initial offense.

What Can Be Done?

So, if you shouldn’t resist forcefully, what options do you have as a victim of the unlawful arrest? Well, you can file a complaint against the arresting officer with their department, and you can make a motion to suppress any evidence that was gathered from the arrest. 

You can also file a lawsuit against the officer and department too, potentially leading to an injunction or monetary damages that could help to cover lost wages, medical bills, and any trauma experienced during the arrest as well.


Overall, we can see that resisting unlawful arrest is rarely, if ever, a sensible idea. The risks associated with resist are often simply too high to ignore, and the best course of action is always to comply with others peacefully and then make your case with a lawyer by your side later on. In most cases of unlawful arrest or mistaken identity, the situation can be cleared up without the need for any additional stress or issues.

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Team Parle

The collective team of Parlé Magazine. Twitter: @parlemag

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