When Can You Be Legally Handcuffed?
Ask the average law-abiding American citizen when they can be placed in handcuffs legally and you’ll probably be met with a blank stare, followed by “uh, when you break the law?” Naturally, it isn’t always as black-and-white as that.
When you decide to keep a handcuff key on your person for a SHTF event, the possibility of societal collapse, and everyday preparedness, it’s essential that you know your rights. The following are situations in which you can be legally handcuffed by law enforcement. We do not advise attempting to escape in these situations, even if you question the legality of your detainment. If you feel that your civil rights have been violated, contact a civil rights attorney.
The primary law to be aware of is the fourth amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. We could take pages and pages discussing what warrants an “unreasonable” search or seizure; ultimately that will be up to the officer in the moment and is likely to vary from person to person. With this in mind:
According to a training bulletin from the Los Angeles Police Department:
“The principle reason for handcuffing an arrestee is to maintain control of the individual and to minimize the possibility of a situation escalating to a point that would necessitate using a higher level of force or restraint. The decision to use restraining procedures and devices depends on common sense and good judgment.”
Law enforcement can make a case that any of the above situations warranted handcuffing you.
What About Citizen’s Arrest?
Citizen’s arrest began as a common law that allowed for citizens to make a warrantless arrest for crimes such as prostitution and gambling. Most states have since codified those common laws, and they vary widely by state. All states require that a citizen can only legally arrest an individual if the crime happened in their presence. This extends to merchants, who enjoy in most states the ability to detain a suspected shoplifter until law enforcement arrives.
A handcuff key is an important part of your everyday carry, but should not be used when you have been detained by law enforcement, especially considering the lack of rigidity surrounding the legality of detainment. It will be easier for an officer to defend their choice to handcuff you than it will be for you to defend your choice to escape custody. It is much wiser to seek professional legal counsel if you feel your civil rights have been violated.
Last Updated: October 10, 2017
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