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The Wilson Law Firm

Under Virginia Criminal Law, in what circumstances are law enforcement officers authorized to arrest a suspect without an arrest warrant?

Virginia Criminal Law and Virginia Criminal Procedure relating to the authority of Virginia law enforcement officers to arrest a suspect in situations where they do not have an arrest warrant is complicated and is not necessarily what one would expect.  Perhaps that is why, in my experience many police officers, prosecuting attorneys and judges do not understand the law in this area.  I've heard officers and prosecutors say, and I've had judges rule, that Virginia law allows officers to arrest (without an arrest warrant) and take into custody any person - for any criminal offense - as long as the officer has probable cause.  This is simply not true.  (See Sections 19.2-74 and 19.2-81 of the Code of Virginia)

Generally speaking, Virginia law authorizes law enforcement officers to take action and arrest suspects who are believed to have committed misdemeanor criminal offenses in the presence of the officer, and felony criminal offenses whether in the presence of the officer or not.  In Virginia, police officers are generally not authorized to arrest persons suspected of committing misdemeanor criminal offenses outside the presence of the officer, but there are a few important exceptions to that general rule. 

For more information about Virginia law as it relates to the authority of police in Virginia to arrest suspects when they do not have an arrest warrant, click here.

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