Technology has long played a role in law enforcement. It is often used to identify suspects and obtain evidence used in subsequent prosecution. With advances in facial recognition technology, population-scale identification and the emergence of systems that enable physical capture without human intervention, we question whether automated arrest is lawful and likely. This article theorises aspects of the automation of arrest in a world of ‘smart portals’, pervasive panopticism and driverless vehicles. It considers technologies, legalities and implications. In doing so it engages with automation as ‘soft power’, a proxy for the state’s lawful use of physical force. It concludes that automated arrest is highly likely, in many instances legal, and with an imperative need for regulation.