Can Virginia Police Arrest Me Without a Warrant?

Few events are as traumatic as being arrested. If law enforcement arrests you for any type of crime, cooperate with officers, BUT make it clear that you want to speak with an attorney BEFORE you even attempt to explain your side of the story. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can safeguard your rights and advocate for your release and ensure that your explanations are CLEAR, CONCISE, and cannot be misunderstood or manipulated.

To arrest a suspect without a warrant, police must have probable cause that they have engaged in criminal activity. An officer has probable cause to arrest when they have reasonable grounds to believe that the law was being violated. Specifically, the Virginia court system explains that probable cause exists when there is “a reasonable ground of suspicion, supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a prudent and cautious man to believe that the accused is guilty of the offense with which he is charged.” In Virginia, the ability to make a warrantless arrest, however, only applies to felony offenses and SOME misdemeanor matters such as Domestic Assault and Battery, Trespassing, and Petit Larceny, for example.

What is a felony crime?

A felony offense is a more serious type of crime that is punishable by more than a year and up to life imprisonment in a state prison. If the police have probable cause to believe that you are committing a felony offense, they can legally arrest you without a warrant. For example, if police witness you committing an armed robbery, they have the power to arrest you without the need for a warrant because the offense is serious, and apprehending you is in the best interests of the public.

Misdemeanor offenses

Misdemeanor crimes are minor offenses punishable by up to a year in a county jail. Generally speaking, police in Virginia are prohibited from making arrests for misdemeanor offenses that do not occur in their presence, without a warrant. There are, however, certain exceptions including but not limited to:

  • Assault and battery
  • Brandishing a firearm
  • Driving under the influence (DUI / DWI)
  • Boating under the influence
  • Carrying a prohibited weapon on school property
  • Shoplifting

In the event that you are arrested, it is important that you act respectfully to law enforcement. Be polite, listen to your Miranda rights, and CLEARLY ask to speak with a lawyer as soon as you are arrested. Your attorney can explain what is happening, protect your rights, and defend your freedom.

Contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Northern Virginia

For more than 15 years, The NoVa Law Firm has provided zealous advocacy for criminal defense clients across Northern Virginia. No matter if you have been arrested for DUI, reckless driving, domestic violence, sexual assault, or drug charges, we are ready to fight for you. Call  (703) 352-9347 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation with criminal defense attorney Eric Clingan.

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About the Author: Eric Clingan

About the Author: Eric Clingan

Eric Clingan is an experienced Criminal Defense attorney and the founder of the NoVA Law firm. He focuses his practice on defending residents of Northern Virginia charged with DUIs, reckless driving, drug charges, and other criminal accusations

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