Generally speaking, an officer can make an arrest for offenses (against the peace) viewed in their presence or, of course, if they have an arrest warrant. Assault cases, however, typically aren’t committed in an officer’s presence… but they are governed by their own statute instead — Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 14.03.
As an example, here is a recent article on a situation where two brothers at a Plano home apparently got into some sort of scuffle and where one went to jail after the police were called.
14.03 specifically allows officers to make an arrest where they have probable cause to believe someone has committed family violence, violated a protective order, have prevented someone from placing a 911 call, assaulted a non-family member and there remains a risk of further violence towards the alleged victim, alleged sexual assaults and various other circumstances.
Basically, if the situation involves violence, the legislature has broadened the officer’s ability to arrest.
It is possible some police agencies have actual policies about making arrests during these situations, but it is the rare exception that the law requires an arrest during an assaultive situation under 14.03. (The statute only uses the word “shall” in conjunction with an arrest for violations of protective orders — meaning that is the only time the officer is actually legally required to make an arrest.
In the situation with the Plano teenagers, it obviously appears the officers had at least the legal authority to make the arrest. Whether the case is charged and prosecuted is another matter.
Jeremy F. Rosenthal, esq.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For specific legal advice you should consult an attorney directly.