“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 when 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 her with 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.

No matter what type of arrest you are facing, a lawyer focused on helping those charged with a criminal act can help you protect your rights and fight for your freedom.