As you already know, our laws are complex, and are made up of both statutory law (such as the Penal Code, Vehicle Code and Health & Safety Code), as well as by common law, which is handed down by the Justices of our state and federal courts in written opinions. These written opinions are just as binding upon us as are the statutes. In fact, the purpose of the courts is often to interpret the statutes, as well as the Constitution, in arriving at its decisions.

This advanced module is limited, primarily to California law, including the interpretation of its statutes and case law. Although much of our legal analysis would probably be applicable in the vast majority of states, it is designed only for learning the applicable laws in this State. Do not assume that the laws you may have learned in another state apply here in California. Similarly, do not assume that the same rules apply elsewhere, in the event you seek employment in another state sometime in the future.

CAVEAT: By learning about the laws of arrest, please never forget that the primary job of a security officer is to observe and report. The purpose of this module is not to encourage you to become an aggressive, over-reaching vigilante, because you know the laws of arrest. To the contrary, it is to provide you with an understanding that you are always best off letting the police do what they do best, and you doing what you do best.

Also, each company you work for may have a different expectation of how assertive they want their security officers to be. This is often a philosophical choice made by the company. Such choices should always be within the law, however, and all policies and procedures should likewise be in agreement with good legal practices.

As lawyers, we appreciate well-written documentation of an incident. Whether the lawyer is a prosecutor who is using your Incident Report to form the basis of a criminal prosecution, or the lawyer is defending you in a civil lawsuit, using your excellent written account to repel naked allegations that you committed heinous atrocities deserving of money to the plaintiff, be rest assured that we are dependent upon your ability to articulate on paper everything about an encounter.

Nothing beats a great report. Documentation is always the key to success. In the courtroom, it is not what really happened that comes to light, but what the evidence shows. Thus, “if it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen.” This is the key to good observing and reporting. In reviewing these materials, try to think how you would document events if you were the person involved in making the arrest. How would you justify your “probable cause?” What specific acts did the suspect do that you could articulate that would be factual, and not merely your subjective beliefs?

Would your report include an explanation as to why you did what you did? Would it include every possible witness? Does it properly describe the exact location, time and date of the incident? Even though these questions may seem basic, we often find it amazing how, in the heat of the moment and the report writing that usually follows immediately, the “basics” are so often overlooked.

Be diligent in your observations. Be detailed and articulate in your report writing. Most of all, be knowledgeable about the law!