How do courts determine whether the manner of an arrest was reasonable?

Answer: Whether an officer behaved reasonably when making an arrest depends on what a reasonable officer in the same circumstances would have done. Courts consider how the officer acted throughout the entire arrest. They also look at the officer’s words and actions.

Reasonable conduct during an arrest may include:

  • having a weapon
  • displaying a weapon
  • using physical threats or force.

Examples of conduct during arrest that courts may consider unreasonable include:

  • using deadly force
  • entering a home without announcing or identifying oneself
  • entering a home without a warrant.

(For more on warrant execution, see Search Warrants.)

EXAMPLE

An officer behaved reasonably when refusing to allow a defendant to enter his home until a search warrant was issued. The officer had reason to believe illegal drugs were in the house and feared the evidence would be destroyed if the defendant entered the house. The defendant was restrained only a short time before issuance of the search warrant. (Illinois v. McArthur, 531 U.S. 326 (2001).).

For more on the legality of an arrest, see Arrest: "Seizing" People. For more on use of force, see Police Brutality.

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