A video of a Philadelphia police officer arresting a black teenager as he waited for a bus has gone viral. The incident is a great example of the legal distinction between a detention and an arrest, as well as the importance of having a criminal defense attorney on your side.
Philadelphia Cop Arrests Black Teen Waiting at Bus Stop
In it, a shirtless black teenager is being marshaled by a Philadelphia cop into the back seat of a police SUV as bystanders all claim he was doing nothing wrong. Sitting sideways on the backseat, the teen asks the officer what he's done. The cop merely shoves the teen's legs into the vehicle and shuts the door. Two other police officers keep the bystanders away.
When the officer sees that he's being recorded and hears that the black teen in the SUV was just waiting for a bus to go home from school, he tells the bystanders to either walk home or get on the bus.
After a few minutes of confining the teen in the SUV, the officer lets him out and intimidates him by telling him to “remember you were shaking in a police car.”
Police Detentions and Arrests
There is a difference between being detained by police and being arrested by them. Where the line is drawn between them – the exact point when a “detention” becomes a full-blown “arrest” – is murky, though.
One of the key factors in whether police have detained someone or actually arrested them is whether the suspect is reasonably free to leave. When you've been arrested, you can't leave. When you're detained, you usually can. This is why defense lawyers tell people to ask police “am I free to go?” If a cop says that you aren't free to leave, then you've officially been arrested. You are supposed to receive your Miranda warning, as the arrest triggers your right to a lawyer, and you should stop talking until your lawyer arrives. You definitely should not be being questioned by the police without receiving your Miranda warning, but either way, speaking to the police without a lawyer present is one of the worst mistakes a person can make.
Police can only make arrests, though, if they have probable cause that a crime has been committed. If they don't have probable cause, but they make an arrest, they are violating your civil rights under the Fourth Amendment. Any evidence of a crime that they obtain after this civil rights violation can be excluded from court.
All of these legal details matter in this incident. The fact that the police officer pushed the teen into the SUV and then closed the door is a strong indication that there was an arrest. Without a Miranda warning, though, even if the teen did say something incriminating to the officer while he was in the SUV, a criminal defense lawyer can keep it from being allowed into court as evidence against him.
Philadelphia Criminal Defense with Joseph D. Lento
Aggressive police tactics like this one seem to be happening more and more often. Your rights in these situations are complex and often depend on very specific facts. Criminal defense lawyer Joseph D. Lento can raise your rights and protect your future. Contact him online or call his Philadelphia law office at (215) 535-5353.