False Arrest Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of False Arrest, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is False Arrest?

n. Illegally holding someone without due cause. This often involves private security or retail establishments that pretend they are police officers or hold someone even though they did not witness a crime being committed. These people would be allowed to conduct a citizen’s arrest, as long as they are certain that they detain the person who committed the crime and law enforcement officers are called at the first opportunity. A false arrest may also occur if a police officer arrests the wrong person, probable cause does not exist, or does not have a warrant. The false arrest becomes a crime when the arresting party knows that the arrested person did not commit a crime. Probable false arrest can be the basis for a lawsuit for damages.

History and Meaning of False Arrest

False arrest is a term used to describe the illegal detention or holding of a person without any lawful justification. The history of false arrest is linked to the common law system, where it was seen as a tort used to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions. The concept of false arrest has been a part of legal practices for centuries and is grounded in the basic right of individuals to be free from unlawful restraints.

Examples of False Arrest

  1. An individual is detained by a shop's security team without any evidence of their involvement in shoplifting.
  2. A police officer arresting a person and charging them with driving under the influence when the person had not been drinking any alcohol.
  3. A person is held by a security guard even after identifying themselves as a legitimate visitor to a building.
  4. A police officer arresting an individual based on racial or discriminatory profiling without any evidence of wrongdoing.

Legal Terms Similar to False Arrest

  1. Unlawful detention - Refers to the illegal or unwarranted holding of a person.
  2. False imprisonment - A legal term used to describe the act of detaining a person against their will or without legal justification.
  3. Malicious prosecution - A legal action brought forward by an individual who has been falsely accused and prosecuted for a crime they did not commit.