What is an arrest? If you look up a legal definition, you might read that an arrest is when someone is “taken into custody” by law enforcement. Those who have learned what an arrest is from experience know that “taken into custody” is only a sugar-coated phrase used to describe a very traumatic event.
First, when you are arrested, you are snatched out of your regularly scheduled life. It does not matter if you have children that need to be picked up from school in an hour, if you might lose your job if you do not show up to work on time, if you have a dog at home that will starve without you, or if you have a surgical appointment. When you are arrested, someone literally takes you against your will. This is extremely burdensome for those who are not able to bond out of jail timely.
You are a confined prisoner. In most cases, a pair of handcuffs secure your wrists when you are arrested. Sometimes both your hands and feet are bound with chains. You are taken to jail and then essentially locked up in a very large cage. At the jail, you are strip-searched before being placed in with others who have been arrested. You are given a booking number to wear on a wristband, and you are given undergarments and clothes that are not yours. You are no longer treated as an ordinary person; you are now an “inmate.”
You are humiliated. Your photograph is taken and your face is associated with whatever crimes you are alleged to have committed even though you have had no trial and you have not been convicted of anything. This information becomes available to essentially anyone with internet access.
There are some people who would say, if being arrested is such an awful experience, then don’t commit crimes and don’t get arrested. However, that response would not likely sit well with a Clay High School student in Northeast Florida who was arrested because he had the same name as another student suspected in a sexual battery case. According to an article from the Florida Times Union, published February 24, 2014, the falsely-arrested teenager spent thirty-five days in jail before the mistake was corrected. Even after that incident, the same law enforcement agency mistakenly arrested a Clay County woman twice. False arrest was such a frequent problem in Denver Colorado, that a civil rights lawsuit was initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union. According to an article in the New York Times, published on February 16, 2012, Bradley Braxton, a Colorado man, spent nine days in jail due to a false arrest. Braxton, a black male, was reportedly arrested on a warrant for sexual assault despite the fact the intended suspect was a white male. The same article goes on to detail another Colorado man being arrested three different times because his name was similar to the name of an intended suspect.
An arrest is a BIG deal. False arrests should not happen. While most false arrests do not appear to be a result of an evil intent to arrest the wrong person, they do appear to be due to errors and carelessness. It is a huge power to be able to physically restrain someone and take them and lock them up. That power must be used with the utmost care and responsibility. When it is not used in that manner, there needs to be accountability. If you have been the victim of a false arrest, you should consult with a licensed attorney concerning your rights.
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