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Can police handcuff me if I'm not under arrest?

You have probably seen TV crime shows where a detective or police officer places a suspect under arrest with a dramatic snap of the handcuffs behind the suspect's back. At the same time, you may hear the officer reciting familiar lines about the suspect's right to remain silent.

The program may end there, with the police and the viewers so certain of the handcuffed person's guilt that there is no need to continue with the story. However, this is only the beginning, and the accused person still has rights to defend, including the right of protection from being unlawfully detained and handcuffed.

Why did police use handcuffs on me?

Your recent encounter with Ohio police may have raised questions about the reasonable use of handcuffs. Did police put the cuffs on you without reading you your rights? Did they restrain you without placing you under arrest? Were you in handcuffs while officers searched your house, apartment or car?

While it may seem that these situations are violations of your civil rights, there are, in fact, certain circumstances under which police may place you in handcuffs when they are not arresting you, including:

  • In custody: If police arrested you and took you into custody, you might expect them to remove the handcuffs at some point. However, authorities may put the cuffs back on, for example, to take you to your court hearing.
  • During a search: When police execute a search warrant, they may place you in handcuffs for a number of reasons. If they are searching for weapons or if you have a reputation for violent acts, officers may feel safer restraining you while they search your house or car.
  • For their protection: At any time when police feel they are at risk, they may handcuff the person presenting the danger. This may occur if an officer feels outnumbered in an unstable situation or if you have made a threatening remark or gesture.
  • For your own protection: If you are a danger to yourself — for example, if you have threatened to harm yourself or if you are having a violent psychotic break — police may use handcuffs for your safety.

Of course, if police have probable cause to arrest you, they are likely to place handcuffs on you. Probable cause is the key, however, and you may feel that police had no reasonable purpose in seizing you and placing you in handcuffs. If you believe police officers violated your Constitutional rights by unlawfully detaining you, you have every right to consult an attorney for advice on the best way to proceed.

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