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United States v. Watson

From lawbrain.com

United States v. Watson, 423 U.S. 411 (1976), was a criminal procedure case that dealt with the necessity of an arrest warrant for a misdemeanor or felony committed in the presence of a peace officer.

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Summary of Case Facts

A postal inspector received a tip from an informant that the defendant, Watson, was in possession of stolen credit cards. At an upcoming, prearranged meeting between the informant and defendant, the informant was to signal the inspector once he knew the defendant was in possession of the stolen credit cards. At the meeting, the informant gave the signal and the defendant was arrested and searched. No cards were found on his person, but the defendant did consent to a search of his nearby vehicle where stolen credit cards were found. The defendant was convicted at trial. The defendant appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed, finding the underlying arrest and subsequent discovery of evidence to be invalid as the inspector had failed to procure an arrest warrant prior to the defendant’s arrest.


Must a peace office procure an arrest warrant before arresting a suspect for a crime committed in the officer’s presence?

Holding and Law

No. The court held that a peace officer may make an arrest without an arrest warrant for a felony or misdemeanor committed in his or her presence, or even one not committed in the officer’s presence, so long as there was reasonable ground for making the arrest.

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