Volume 55

In the Officer’s Omnipresence: Live Surveillance and Warrantless Misdemeanor Arrests

by Joseph Lanuti

At common law, a law enforcement officer who witnesses a crime can make a warrantless misdemeanor arrest so long as the alleged crime was committed in his presence. This requirement has traditionally meant that the arresting officer is physically present at the scene of the crime and witnessed the offense first-hand. 

What if the officer were to witness the crime from a remote location via live surveillance technology? On the one hand, he is ‘present’ because he can see and hear the crime as if actually on the scene. Conversely, he is not physically present at the scene. 

Courts have interpreted this “presence” requirement in the context of live video surveillance to mean “physically proximate. However, this view has limited practical application and workability. Instead, the presence requirement in this context should be “in the view,” which speaks more to the purpose of the requirement. 

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