Can CPD Arrest Me with No Evidence?

handcuffsWe are often called by clients who were recently arrested or who have an outstanding warrant for their arrest and asked “how are they going to arrest me with no evidence?” Well, if you’ve already been arrested, the answer is simple: they just did. That’s how. But keep in mind that an arrest or a warrant for your arrest is just a mere allegation, which means that it’s just an accusation that you did something wrong. It’s only the opinion of the police officer and he or she is definitely not the judge. So, it’s not a final decision at all and it certainly doesn’t mean that you’re guilty of a crime. The only thing that really matters is what the judge says later in court, not what the police think.

No One Wants to Be Arrested

Of course, that’s not to say that being arrested isn’t a problem - it obviously is. No one wants to be arrested, especially if it happens at work or in front of family or friends. When you’re arrested, the Chicago Police (or any police department in Illinois) will typically take your mug shot and your fingerprints and then submit the information through LEADS (Law Enforcement Automated Data System) to determine your criminal history and whether you’re wanted in any other jurisdictions or have any other active warrants. This can sometimes take many hours, depending on what day of the week you’re at the police department, what time of day or night it is and whether it occurs during a shift change.

But How Can an Arrest Happen with No Evidence?

Everyone has an opinion about almost everything these days, and the same is true about what constitutes “evidence”. You may feel strongly that there isn’t enough, but obviously the police feel differently, which is why you have been charged with a crime or a traffic offense. Again, what’s most important is what the judge later determines, as that’s what really counts. When the police make an arrest, they need what is called “probable cause”. Probable cause basically means that that there is a reasonable basis to believe that a crime was committed. If later in court, a criminal attorney files a “Motion to Quash Arrest” and alleges that the police did not really have such a reasonable belief, then the judge may decide to dismiss the charges entirely and set the defendant free.

What is Evidence anyway?

Evidence is virtually anything that’s admissible in court and tends to prove or disprove whether a defendant is guilty of a crime, violation or offense. When people say that there’s no evidence, usually what they’re really saying is that there’s no video evidence or scientific evidence or fingerprint evidence etc. But keep in mind that a court of law doesn’t need “hard” evidence like this to convict a defendant or to issue a warrant for their arrest. Video and other scientific advances like fingerprinting, alcohol testing, gun residue testing and DNA testing didn’t even exist until relatively recently in the history of our country. So, was no one every convicted in a criminal court until these things were invented? Of course not. Plenty of people were found guilty (and continue to be) jailed and even placed on death row based on nothing more that the word of another person or a witness. So, lots of other things can constitute evidence: testimony of others, a receipt from a grocery store showing the time a person was shopping, or footprints in the snow to name a few. These pieces of evidence may not be the “smoking gun” that proves or disproves guilt, but they are part of the puzzle that is used by a judge or a jury when determining guilt or innocence. These things are commonly referred to as “circumstantial evidence”.

What Should I do if I Have an Active Warrant?

Even if you believe that the evidence against you is insufficient or that the police have fabricated evidence, it’s always best to “submit to the process”, which means either turn yourself in to the police to post a bond, or hire an experienced criminal attorney to present you to the judge and file a motion to quash or recall the warrant. Ignoring a warrant is never a good course of action. It will eventually catch up with you when you least expect it and least want to be taken into custody. So, meet it head on and take action as soon as possible.

Hire an Experienced Chicago Criminal Team

While being arrested is never the right time to challenge your arrest. If you fail to comply with the police, you may find yourself charged with obstructing arrest, resisting arrest, or you may be injured, shot or tased in the process. So, no matter how little evidence you feel that the police have against you, you should comply with the arrest procedure and leave the challenging of your arrest to your attorney in court. Since 1990, the attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC have represented both criminal and traffic defendants in issues involving arrest and sufficiency of evidence. Contact us any time of day for a free initial consultation at (312) 644-0444.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : January 13, 2023