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.