Living in and around the St. Louis area, we are all quite familiar with what seems like countless little cities here and there. They run into each like a gerrymandered jigsaw puzzle. Driving the length of I-170, I-270 or I-64/40 one passes through 10 or more municipalities, most with their own police departments patrolling their streets.
What happens more often than not is what may have happened to you. You were driving home and took the highway. As you pass a "City Limit" sign you notice police lights in your rear-view mirror and are pulled over by a cop from the other city. If you've heard that police officers only have the authority to make arrests within the confines of their own city limits, then you may be wondering how is this legal?
In Fresh Pursuit
Missouri law makes it clear that if an officer from City A sees you committing a crime, whether a speeding ticket or possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana, in City A; then he has the authority to arrest you. This is sometimes known as jurisdictional authority. The ordinances of City A, and State statutes, have empowered its police force to arrest those who commit violations in City A.
Emergency situations notwithstanding, municipal officers are generally limited to making arrests within their own prescribed municipal boundary. However, if an officer witnesses someone violating a municipal ordinance or state statute, they may arrest that individual outside of the officer's municipal boundary lines under certain conditions.
What is 'Fresh Pursuit'?
"Fresh pursuit may only be initiated from within the pursuing peace officer's...jurisdiction and shall be terminated once the pursuing peace officer is outside [his] jurisdiction and has lost contact with the person being pursued."
In order for an arrest outside of the officer's jurisdiction to be legitimate, an officer of City A must have witnessed the violation occur while the suspect was within City A's limits.
In addition to having witnessed the offense while still in City A, the officer must initiate 'fresh pursuit' of the suspect while he is also in City A. If the act of stopping the suspect involves the suspect and officer both driving into City B before the stop is made, then the stop and subsequent arrest are legitimate.
Missouri Statute grants municipal officers the limited authority to exceed their jurisdictional bounds in order to stop an individual who has committed a violation of municipal ordinances or state law.
"Any law enforcement officer certified pursuant to chapter 590 of any political subdivision of this state...in fresh pursuit of a person who is reasonably believed by such officer to have committed a felony in this state or who has committed, or attempted to commit, in the presence of such officer or agent, any criminal offense or violation of a municipal or county ordinance,...shall have the authority to arrest and hold in custody such person anywhere in this state."
Missouri Courts have upheld this law sustaining convictions that resulted from arrests following an officer's fresh pursuit of a defendant into a neighboring city, or overturning others when no fresh pursuit was initiated within their city limits.
Any duly certified officer of the State may exercise extra-jurisdictional authority when either you have or they reasonably believe that you have committed a violation of their municipality's ordinances. Therefore, the next time you are driving on Interstate 270 and you see a Maryland Heights police cruiser driving behind you with its lights flashing don't think that you will be able to have the ticket thrown out simply by making him pull you over within the city limits of Creve Coeur. Evading a lawful stop is not a sound legal defense strategy.
Whether the officer ultimately arrests you for Driving While Intoxicated, or issues you a traffic citation, attorney Anthony Bretz can help you. He has successfully defended clients in and around St. Louis for more than a decade. Contact Anthony Bretz today to learn how the circumstances of your arrest may be used to your benefit in defending your rights.