Penal Code 836 | Arrests

Penal Code 836 | Arrests

Arrests can be scary, confusing things. As a society, we want police to catch criminals, but we also want people’s rights to be protected. Penal Code 836 in California law tries to balance those things when it comes to arrests. Let’s break it down so folks understand their rights and responsibilities better.

What is Penal Code 836?

Penal Code (PC) 836 is part of California law that says when police can arrest someone. There’s a lot of legal mumbo jumbo in the code, but basically it comes down to letting officers arrest someone if they have probable cause.

Probable cause means the officer has enough info to think a reasonable person would believe someone committed a crime or was about to. It’s more than just a hunch or feeling – there has to be facts that point to criminal activity. But it’s less than the proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” needed to convict in court later on. It’s a middle ground between those to allow arrests while still protecting rights.

When Can Police Arrest Under PC 836?

There’s a few situations when PC 836 says police can arrest someone:

  • They have a warrant signed by a judge allowing the arrest
  • They see the person committing a crime
  • They have probable cause to think the person committed a felony crime
  • They have probable cause to think the person committed a misdemeanor crime involving violence, threats, or property damage
  • They have probable cause to think the person is about to flee prosecution for a felony

There’s some details and exceptions, but those are the basics. The key is that probable cause standard – officers can’t just arrest whoever they want whenever they want. There has to be facts supporting criminal activity.

What Happens After an Arrest?

After arrest under PC 836, the police have to follow other laws too. They should only use reasonable force needed to make the arrest. They must identify themselves as police. They have to tell the person why they are being arrested.

Police are allowed to search someone’s body and immediate area when they make a lawful arrest. But searches beyond that need a warrant unless another exception applies. Evidence found in illegal searches can be excluded from court.

The arrested person must be brought before a judge or released within 48 hours. This is so they can challenge the arrest if it was improper. Then prosecutors have to file formal charges or the person must be released.

Fighting Unlawful Arrests

What if you think the police didn’t have probable cause and the arrest was unlawful? There’s a few things you can do to fight it:

  • Don’t resist arrest – that just gives police another reason to arrest you!
  • State clearly that you believe the arrest is improper.
  • Don’t say anything else – ask for your lawyer!
  • Document witnesses and evidence that shows the arrest was bad.
  • File a complaint about improper actions.
  • Challenge any charges at trial.
  • Sue the police department for violating your civil rights.

It’s an uphill battle though. Courts tend to side with police unless there’s strong evidence the arrest was unconstitutional. But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t fight back when police overstep their power. Our rights are too important to ignore unlawful arrests.

What About Arrests for Protests?

A big issue is arrests of protesters. We have a right to protest legally, but police often arrest demonstrators without solid probable cause. Their real motive is to stop the protest, not because of any crimes.

Courts have said arrests for minor offenses at protests are unconstitutional if that was just a pretext to end the protest. But police keep doing it, betting people won’t have the time and money to fight the charges. We have to push back on these improper protest arrests.

The Bottom Line

Police have power to arrest, but they can’t abuse it. Probable cause and other limits protect our freedom. We must watch out for violations of PC 836 and stand up for our rights. With understanding on both sides, we can have lawful arrests and justice for all. Well, that’s my take on it anyways! Let me know what you think in the comments.


California Penal Code § 836 PC – Warrantless Arrests