In many nations, criminal procedure law has been developed to regulate officers' discretion, so that they do not arbitrarily or unjustly exercise their powers of arrest, search and seizure, and use of force. In the United States, Miranda v. Arizona led to the widespread use of Miranda warnings or constitutional warnings.
In Miranda v. Arizona the court installed safeguards against self-incriminating statements made after an arrest. The court held that “The prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way, unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the Fifth Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination”
Police in the United States are also prohibited from holding criminal suspects for more than a reasonable amount of time (usually 24–48 hours) before arraignment, using torture, abuse or physical threats to extract confessions, using excessive force to effect an arrest, and searching suspects' bodies or their homes without a warrant obtained upon a showing of probable cause. The four exceptions to the constitutional requirement of a search warrant are:
- Search incident to arrest
- Motor vehicle searches
- Exigent circumstances
In Terry v. Ohio (1968) the court divided seizure into two parts, the investigatory stop and arrest. The court further held that during an investigatory stop a police officer’s search “ confined to what minimally necessary to determine whether is armed, and the intrusion, which made for the sole purpose of protecting himself and others nearby, confined to ascertaining the presence of weapons“ (U.S. Supreme Court). Before Terry, every police encounter constituted an arrest, giving the police officer the full range of search authority. Search authority during a Terry stop (investigatory stop) is limited to weapons only.
Using deception for confessions is permitted, but not coercion. There are exceptions or exigent circumstances such as an articulated need to disarm a suspect or searching a suspect who has already been arrested (Search Incident to an Arrest). The Posse Comitatus Act severely restricts the use of the military for police activity, giving added importance to police SWAT units.
British police officers are governed by similar rules, such as those introduced to England and Wales under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), but generally have greater powers. They may, for example, legally search any suspect who has been arrested, or their vehicles, home or business premises, without a warrant, and may seize anything they find in a search as evidence.
All police officers in the United Kingdom, whatever their actual rank, are 'constables' in terms of their legal position. This means that a newly appointed constable has the same arrest powers as a Chief Constable or Commissioner. However, certain higher ranks have additional powers to authorize certain aspects of police operations, such as a power to authorize a search of a suspect's house (section 18 PACE in England and Wales) by an officer of the rank of Inspector, or the power to authorize a suspect's detention beyond 24 hours by a Superintendent.
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... so that they do not arbitrarily or unjustly exercise their powers of arrest, search and seizure, and use of force ... and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), but generally have greater powers ... appointed constable has the same arrest powers as a Chief Constable or Commissioner ...
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