arrest, in law, seizure and detention of a person, either to bring him before a court body or official, or to otherwise secure the administration of the law. A person may be arrested for an alleged violation of civil or criminal law. Civil arrest is most often used when one has been guilty of civil contempt of court; but in some states of the United States it is also allowed in cases where it is feared the defendant may attempt to flee the court's jurisdiction or otherwise frustrate justice. Arrest is ordinarily accomplished by a warrant issued by a court or officer of justice. In civil arrest a warrant must always be issued and generally anyone named may not be apprehended on Sundays or legal holidays. There are no time restrictions on making a criminal arrest. Any person may make such an arrest without a warrant if a felony is committed in his presence; this is the so-called citizen's arrest. An officer of the law does not always need a warrant to arrest someone if he reasonably suspects that person on the basis of facts or circumstances of having recently committed a felony. In all other criminal cases there must be a warrant before the arrest. Force may be used in making an arrest, even to the extent of killing a person who resists arrest for a felony that endangers human life. If an arrest is contrary to law, the apprehended person may procure his release by habeas corpus and may bring a civil suit for false imprisonment. In most cases the person detained may be released if he can post bail. Diplomatic personnel and members of Congress and of state legislatures during legislative sessions are exempt from arrest.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.