Most people have never had law enforcement officers place handcuffs on them. It can be a frightening and intimidating experience when it happens for the first time (or even if it’s not your first time).
We generally associate being handcuffed with being placed under arrest (even though they’re not a requirement). It’s important to understand, however, that this isn’t the only situation in which you could find yourself being handcuffed by officers.
Examples of times besides arrest when handcuffs can be used
There are other situations where police and other law enforcement officers can legally handcuff people even when they aren’t being placed under arrest. Let’s look at a few of those.
- For officer safety: Law enforcement officers typically have fairly broad leeway to place someone in handcuffs during an interaction if they believe that it’s necessary to protect themselves from harm. In those cases, they can do so even if the person being handcuffed hasn’t been arrested.
- When a search warrant is being executed: The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in at least two cases that police can handcuff those on the premises where they’re executing a search warrant in order to detain them and/or for the officers’ safety.
- At any time while a person is in custody: This can include times when a person is being moved from one place to another – like from the courthouse to jail and back or from one part of the jail to another. If a person is considered dangerous, they may have to spend their trial handcuffed. However, their attorney can argue that this would prejudice the jury against them.
If you have been arrested and you believe that you were wrongfully handcuffed at any point or that your rights were violated in any way, tell your attorney. It could have an impact on evidence or self-incriminating statements that prosecutors are using against you.