Can Police Arrest You Even If They Didn’t See You Commit a Crime?

Posted by Corey L. Scott | Jan 03, 2022 | 0 Comments

“If the police didn't see me commit a crime, they can't arrest me.”

I regularly have people show up at my office with all kinds of misinformation. We hear misleading information all the time, people rely on information they got from their cousin, or read on social media. Having done this for 19 years, I have heard some truly crazy things. I will never forget when recently, I spoke to a gentleman who swore that if the police did not see him actively commit the crime, then he could not be arrested. This interaction compelled me to share with you at least four reasons why this is simply untrue.

Perhaps the police did not necessarily lay eyes on you while you committed a crime, but one of the first steps in any investigation is to visit residences around where the crime took place and any surrounding businesses. Do you know what they are looking for? They are asking everyone in the neighborhood the same question, which is, “Do you have any type of video surveillance equipment?” There are a lot of crimes with no eyewitnesses, but there are video cameras everywhere. Most businesses have security cameras, and it is not uncommon now to see ring cameras on front doors. While the police did not directly see the crime being committed, they were able to obtain video footage that clearly depicts you committing this offense. That is the first scenario where the police did not see it, but could still in fact arrest you, based on the video evidence.

In many cases, there are eyewitnesses to crimes. The would-be criminal might feel confident they are not being witnessed and that the coast is clear, but you never know when someone may look out their window or open their front door just in time to be a witness. There is a good chance that this witness will report this crime to the police, or they might give a statement during an investigation. Police find someone a short time later that matches the description given by the eyewitness, and then that person is arrested. That is the second way in which police do not have to see it, but certainly have enough to arrest a person.

Occasionally there is a situation with no direct evidence, but there are circumstances that point to the culpability of a particular person. Imagine there is a store that is about to close, with only one patron inside. The owner notices this customer and observes that the customer is acting suspiciously. The owner goes to the back of the store to retrieve something, and when he comes back he sees that the suspicious person is gone. However, they are not the only thing missing- much of this store's merchandise went with them as well. While the store owner did not witness the transgression with his own eyes, he can provide a description of the perpetrator when he makes the report. Considering there was only one patron in the store when the owner went in the back, and the owner had locked up after discovering a crime had been committed, it seems likely this person was the culprit. That is one more example of where police did not see the crime but can certainly arrest the offender later.

Then there are times where there can be a combination of direct and indirect evidence. I will never forget, years ago, there was a client who had allegedly hit a bicyclist with his car. This individual chose not to do the right thing, which would have been to stop, call for help, and remain at the scene to provide your information. In Indiana it is illegal to flee the scene of an accident, and an investigation ensued. The police observed the paint on the bike and took notice of the specific type and color. A few days later in that same neighborhood where the accident had taken place, police discover a car that fit the victim's description, with paint transfer the same color and type as the bike. They do an investigation and later, the person is charged with the crime.

In that last scenario, the person was caught because of the paint transfer evidence, but occasionally there will be a case where the person's conscience will just work on them. They start feeling bad about what happened, and eventually the weight of their guilt becomes too much to bear, so they turn themselves in. Another possibility is that the driver ends up confiding in someone else about the hit and run, and their confidant eventually reports them to the police.

Those are just a few ways that police can arrest you without witnessing the crime. I hope that this has been helpful to you. If you have any questions about this video or anything else related to it, send me an email or give me a call. I am always more than happy to talk to you. Until next time, or even if there isn't a next time, remember, if you have to be guilty of anything, be guilty of greatness.               

About the Author

Corey L. Scott

Corey L. Scott, was born and raised in East Chicago, Indiana. Upon graduation from East Chicago Central High School, Corey attended Indiana State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology.  Upon graduation, Corey accepted a position with the Marion County Superior Court, Juvenile Division where he served with distinction for the next nine years, eventually being promoted to Director of the Youth Counseling Department. Pursuing his dream of becoming an attorney, Corey attended the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis.  While in law school, Corey was an Indiana Council on Legal Education Opportunity (ICLEO) fellow and participated in Moot Court competitions.  He also worked in the Marion Superior Court, Criminal Division as a bailiff and research assistant to the Honorable Tanya Walton Pratt, who serves as a Judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Corey also served as an internship law clerk to the Honorable Judge, Margret G. Robb, at the Indiana Court of Appeals. Finally, upon graduation from law school, Corey had the distinct honor and privilege to serve as a law clerk to the Honorable Justice, Robert D. Rucker, who sits on the Indiana Supreme Court. Corey then became an associate with Mike Norris Law Office, where he specialized in bankruptcy law with a main concentration on working to assist families obtain a fresh start through Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Still a young attorney, Corey then served as a public defender at the Marion County Public Defender Agency.  In this position, Corey gained invaluable trial experience by defending clients in a wide range of matters from misdemeanors to serious felonies on a daily basis.  It was also during this time that Corey discovered his passion for representing and serving "everyday people." An entrepreneur at heart, Corey established the Law Office of Corey L. Scott, P.C.  Since then, he and his staff have served the greater Indianapolis community and surrounding counties in several legal disciplines including: Bankruptcy, Criminal Defense and Family Law.  In keeping with his vision, Corey L. Scott, P.C., is a client focused, results oriented general law practice that endeavors to provide legal solutions for "everyday people" charged with a crime, dealing with financial crisis or going through a difficult divorce. Corey has also been active serving the greater Indianapolis community by participating in pro bono programs such as "Ask a Lawyer," the "Modest Means" panel program which allows individuals to afford legal counsel at a fraction of normal rates, Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic and the Heartland Pro Bono Council program. Corey is a proud member of the Indianapolis Bar Association, Indiana Bar Association, American Bar Association, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.


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