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St. Louis cancels 220,000 arrest warrants

Most St. Louis residents have seen an arrest depicted on television or in the movies, which are often shown in dramatic fashion with the accused being read his or her Miranda rights by the officer. In reality, an arrest can be far less entertaining for those involved, particularly where the arrest is unexpected and unfounded.

Individuals who are arrested should understand that they do have certain rights when it comes to being arrested and what law enforcement may ask of them. Typically, an officer can only arrest someone if the officer has probable cause that a crime was committed or is about to be committed. The most obvious example of this might be if the officer personally observed a crime taking place, which would likely entitle the officer to make an arrest of the suspect on the scene.

In other cases, it becomes important for officers to have an arrest warrant that is issued by a judge before making an arrest. The warrant will be based on the same probable cause standard, but that determination is made by a judge who has the ability to look at the alleged facts and circumstances and issue a ruling as to whether probable cause exists. For instance, a judge might determine there is probable cause that sex crimes were committed by a person, which is a lower standard than is necessary to actually convict the person on the state or federal charges.

Typically, arrests warrants will be valid until law enforcement arrests the person, although that is not always the case. For instance, St. Louis recently announced a plan to cancel 220,000 arrest warrants that were issued against individuals for moving and non-moving traffic violations. The warrants will be forgiven against these individuals, although the underlying charges are not forgiven and a hearing must be scheduled with the court to address the charges.

Ultimately, individuals have constitutional rights when it comes to being arrested. Consequently, individuals who are subject to an arrest should determine whether they have any valid challenges to an unlawful arrest, or to conduct engaged in by the police after an arrest, such as inappropriately questioning a person who has demanded an attorney.

Source: STL Today, "St. Louis Municipal Court cancels 220,000 minor traffic arrest warrants," Oct. 2, 2014

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