The difficulties in making an arrest
The difficulties in making an arrest in light of the prospect of civil liability on officers must be viewed in relation to the Bill of Rights under the United States Constitution which protects the citizens of the United States from abuses by the government and its officers. As pointed out in the discussion question, the problem arises when there are no obvious bruises or there is a recanting of statements that lead to reasonable doubt as to the validity of the rest which gives rise to civil liability on officers.
In understanding the difficulties in making an arrest, one must first examine the Bill of Rights which regulates all arrests. According to the law, no person is to be deprived of life or liberty without the due process of the law. Due process in this sense does not only refer to the adherence to certain procedural rules such as the Miranda Rights or the presentation of a warrant of arrest. Due process is basically a two-fold rule because it involves substantial and procedural aspects.
As discussed, procedural due process is not enough. There must also be substantial due process which is used to justify the deprivation of life or liberty. In the case at present, the problem may lie in the fact that while the procedural due process aspect may have been satisfied by making a valid arrest, the substantial aspect may be left wanting due to the lack of any evidence, circumstantial or direct, that can be used as the grounds for making of such an arrest.
Due to the number of spousal abuse cases that have arisen over the years and the corresponding prosecution success rates of each, it has come to the public’s perception that by imposing a civil liability the officer will be more responsible in investigating the facts surrounding the case. While it is ideal to impose a civil liability on the officer in order to reduce the number of false prosecutions, the balance between public safety and public rights must be examined.
In the scenario that is presented, there is an assumption that it is already difficult enough to make a valid arrest and that there is no need to impose a civil liability upon the officers of the law who are merely carrying out their duties. At this point, it must also be pointed out that the requirement of the law for substantial due process is merely for there to be probable cause to cause the arrest. This essentially means that while bruises may not be obvious or that certain incriminating statements may be recanted, the officer may still be correct in making the arrest due to the presence of probable cause.
By imposing a civil liability strictly, the existence of probable cause, as it is jurisprudentially and constitutionally recognized, will be totally disregarded. The reason for this is that the law also recognizes that there are certain aspects of probable cause that cannot be written down in certain terms. Certain warrantless arrests are constitutionally valid if the arresting officer has substantial belief that probable cause exists. As such, this is a case to case basis that depends on certain personal factors such as experience and training.
To impose civil liability would necessitate a fixed set of rules and guidelines that have to be strictly followed; the implication of such being that officers would be more likely to let a culprit go than to cause an arrest. When the forefathers drafted the constitution, they had in mind a fine balance between the rights of individuals and the public good. It was recognized even during that time that there are certain things that are necessary in order that the greater good for the public can be protected.
By unduly restricting the power of officers of the law to uphold the law, the efficacy of such laws may be hampered and the rights of the public may not be sufficiently protected. It lies in the best interests of the public to allow to a certain extent the suppression of certain individual rights in order to protect the general public. In this scenario, while a person may perhaps be unfairly arrested, it should be reassuring to know that the government is doing the best that it can to safeguard the rights of the public.
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