Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Arrest Definition:

The detainment or restraint of a person or thing for the purposes of determining legal rights as regards a thing, or suspicion of criminal activity as regards a person.

Related Terms: Seizure, Search, Arrest (Maritime Law), Arrestment, Investigative Detention

The term has distinct significance in maritime law - see Legal Definition of Arrest - Maritime Law.

Generally, in the context of the criminal law, Halsbury's Laws of England defines an arrest as:

"Arrest consists of the actual seizure or touching of a person’s body with a view to his detention. The mere pronouncing of words of arrest is not an arrest, unless the person sought to be arrested submits to the process and goes with the arresting officer."

These words were adopted in Canada in R v Whitfield (1970).

In the United States, the Supreme Court, in the 1968 case of Terry v Ohio, used these words:

"An arrest is the initial stage of a criminal prosecution. It is intended to vindicate society's interest in having its laws obeyed, and it is inevitably accompanied by future interference with the individual's freedom of movement, whether or not trial or conviction ultimately follows."


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