When you arrest a person on a previously issued
arrest warrant, your arrest report will usually be
pretty simple. Your department may require you to
submit a follow-up report under the original case
number listing the arrest information such as date,
time, location, etc. Or, your department may have
a separately formatted report specifically for the
service of arrest warrants. Either way, there will be
a reporting procedure in place to connect the arrest
with the original reporting of the offense for which
you arrested the suspect.
When you make an arrest on a warrant issued from
another jurisdiction, you'll most likely prepare a
miscellaneous incident report listing the other
jurisdiction's case number. Again, if your
department has a separate arrest report, it will have
fields (boxes) to list all required information
regarding out of jurisdiction warrants.
Either way, all reports have narratives. When you
make observations or receive additional information
regarding the offense for which the warrant was
issued, you must list those observations or
information. For instance, a suspect you're
arresting on an attempted murder warrant may
make a spontaneous, incriminating statement to
you, "I was just defending myself, officer...he shot
at me first!" This statement has just made you a
state's witness to the crime charged in the warrant,
and it is your responsibility to document that
pertinent information to make it a permanent part
of the original investigation.
I talk a lot about probable cause , because it is such
an important part of your job. You're going to
arrest a lot of people for a lot of things, and how
you articulate probable cause will determine how
much justice you're going to achieve.
Statement of Probable Cause
When you apply for an arrest warrant, search
warrant, or you make a warrantless arrest, you'll
prepare and submit a statement of probable cause
as a court document. While your police report will
also contain the elements of probable cause, the
court document part is the part that really
counts...particularly in the short term.
I know you've heard the stories where suspects are
released on low bails, no bails, or...they're released
without charges due to lack of probable cause.
During your academy training, you may well be told
to keep your statement of probable cause short
with only information sufficient to establish probable
cause. Here's the problem with "just enough"
probable cause. If ten different people review a
statement of probable cause, you'll have ten
different opinions as to the weight and legitimacy of
the probable cause. You'll be amazed when you see
a judge require overwhelming proof of guilt to
establish probable cause. Of course, if you watch
that same judge over time, you'll find that the
judge's definition of probable cause varies with the
type of crime charged.
Many police officers, and academy instructors,
believe that when a reviewing court official needs
additional information beyond what's recorded
within your statement of probable cause, he or she
can obtain a copy of the police report. Let's take a
short pause here for...laughter. Whenever a judge,
magistrate, state's attorney, or some other
designated court official reviews your probable
cause to determine the existence of probable cause
and the following bail status of your defendant, that
official bears no obligation to go searching for
Since probable cause -- which really isn't a hard
thing to establish and understand -- has different
standards for different people, how can you be
certain that you've provided sufficient information
to establish probable cause within your statement
of probable cause? It's easy...put everything you
have into your statement of probable cause.
Whenever I arrested a person without a warrant,
the narrative of my police report was simply a copy
of the statement of probable cause. I didn't have
the benefit of word processing and the simple
procedure of cut and paste. My method required a
lot of writing, but I never had a problem with
anyone questioning my statements of probable
cause. There's a good possibility that you'll have
the benefit of being able to cut and paste across
different reports if your department's reporting
system is fully computerized.
Most of the warrantless arrests you make will be
completed during the arrest and reporting
procedures. In other words, most will not require
follow-up reporting, and all of the information
required for prosecution will already be available.
When all the information is in the statement of
probable cause, the prosecutor's job becomes a lot
simpler. For that matter, everybody's job becomes
a lot simpler.
One of the first things you'll learn about probable
cause is that probable cause is a standard that
requires enough evidence to make an arrest while
that evidence need not be sufficient to convict the
person of the crime for which you arrested that
person. During your academy training, you'll
probably be told to keep everything you write
simple and to the point. That's fine as long as you
address everything that needs to be addressed.
Simple and to the point should never be construed
as meaning short and lacking any pertinent
information that is available to you.
Here's the thing...a probable cause statement could
be contained within just a few sentences, or it could
run into pages. The length and content on your
probable cause statements depends solely on your
commitment to accuracy and thoroughness.
All of the arrests you make will be either by your
execution of an arrest warrant or by warrantless
arrest based on your observations or information
received which provides probable cause for you to
make the warrantless arrest.
"When all the information is in the statement
of probable cause, the prosecutor's job
becomes a lot simpler. For that matter,
everybody's job becomes a lot simpler."
~ Barry M. Baker
|Copyright © 2019 Barry M. Baker