The player can be busted as a result of having and failure to escape from a wanted level. As wanted levels progress higher, the law enforcement is more likely to kill the player rather than arrest them, although if given the chance, they will still attempt to pull the player out of their vehicle. Many factors can contribute to this:
- Being pulled from a vehicle, or having the player's vehicle door successfully opened by a member of law enforcement.
- Being beaten several times by a law enforcement officer carrying a Nightstick in quick succession.
- A military or other member of law enforcement managing to pull open the hatch of a player-controlled Rhino.
- Being on the ground when a member of law enforcement is within a certain radius. This tends to happen if the player engages in melee combat with a member of law enforcement, and is knocked to the ground.
- Attempting to ride off in a police motorcycle while the officer is nearby, causing them to throw the player off the bike.
- Being knocked to the ground while attempting to steal a law enforcement vehicle, with an officer inside.
In the 3D Universe and HD Universe, if the player is arrested, the law enforcement officers will aim their weapon as a pistol, regardless of what weapon they are carrying. This occurs even if they are not holding any weapon at all, which can happen if the officer was revived by a Paramedic, or if they were shot in the hand, disarming them.
In all the games of the 3D Universe, once a player is arrested and "BUSTED" appears on-screen nothing can undo this. Even if the cop or other member of law enforcement dies during the busted sequence the player will not get up unless the player takes explosive damage or inputs certain cheats, and will remain on the ground. It is also impossible to go from the "BUSTED" sequence to the "WASTED" sequence, or vice versa, as the player will be invulnerable to any type of damage while in the "BUSTED" sequence. If the player takes explosion damage while "BUSTED", the player can regain control for a few moments before the screen fades to black and they are transported to the nearest police station.
In the 3D Universe (except for GTA San Andreas), if the player dies with an officer of the law nearby, the officer will pull out his pistol just as if he is arresting the player (regardless of whether they had a wanted level or not). However, the words "WASTED!" will still appear on the screen and the player will still be respawned at the nearest hospital.
In the 3D Universe, if the player is arrested by an officer who was killed then revived by a paramedic, the officer will still use pistol arrest animation while his hand is empty. This also happens in GTA IV if the player shot the police officer's pistol out of his hand and then got arrested by getting pulled out of the car.
As a result of getting busted, the player has their body armor and all of their weapons confiscated, and will fail any mission that was in progress at the time of arrest. In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, the player also loses all of their garage-stored vehicles, in Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, any drugs currently held by the player are confiscated, and on all 3D Universe games, the player's fine is determined by how many wanted stars the player got busted with:
In Grand Theft Auto V, getting arrested during a mission gives the player the option to retry from a certain checkpoint, though some gold medal objectives (such as time or accuracy) will be disabled, preventing 100% completion. If the player declines the option to retry, they will respawn outside the nearest police station and lose their money.
In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, the player's confiscated weapons can be returned for $2000. They will be processed at the closest precinct, and a small amount of money will also be taken by the police as a bribe.
In Grand Theft Auto V, only ammo and body armor are confiscated. If the player has a weapon drawn when being busted, they will also lose that weapon.
In Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto V, the player is permitted to resist arrest by breaking away during the arrest. This can only be done if being held at gunpoint by an officer. Doing so will earn the player a two-star wanted level, and cause the arresting officer (and any others in the vicinity) to engage the player with their firearm.
In Grand Theft Auto: London 1969 and Grand Theft Auto: London 1961, "Busted" is instead known as "You're Nicked!" This is a common British slang phrase associated with being arrested, said by the arresting officer to the offender. It was popularized by 1970s and 1980s British television police dramas such as The Sweeney.
In GTA 2, after the player is taken to the police station he/she will be thrown out of a moving police car when they let him/her go. Presumably this is to fit in with the dystopian, rough theme the game has. The player can also jump out of the car early.
When on foot in the Game Boy Color version, police officers will only need to collide with the Protagonist in order to "Bust" them. This was likely to compensate for the omission of unarmed combat from this version of the game. On the other hand, police officers are unable to pull people out of their car in this version, but they will still be able to crowd around the vehicle to obstruct their movement.
In the Grand Theft Auto III beta, when Claude was busted it showed red and yellow letters reading busted. This was changed to a simple orange color in the final version. Also, in beta, Claude could be busted while on foot.[ ] If the player was busted during a mission, the Mission Failed message will appear in the middle, with Busted still appear in the bottom right.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Occasionally, during the blank screen after being busted, the player can hear Ken Rosenberg, Tommy's lawyer, talking (presumably with the police) in an attempt to get Tommy released (e.g. "Tommy Vercetti is an innocent man!") Following this, the player will be respawned in front of the nearest police station. If the player was busted during a mission, the Mission Failed message will appear in the middle, with Busted still appear in the bottom right.
- The sound files for these are named as bust_[number].mp3.
- There are 28 lines in total.
GTA San Andreas
If Carl is busted at the edge of a high building, the officer will sometimes knock him off the building, resulting in CJ seemingly dying once he hits the ground. This is more than likely a glitch, and CJ may still taunt the officers arresting him.
If CJ is busted when doing a bunny hop on a bike the busted screen will appear in mid-air.
If the police officer or other member of law enforcement who arrests Carl dies for any reason during the BUSTED scene, the player will regain control of CJ for a few moments.
If the player was busted during a mission, the Mission Failed message will appear below the Busted message.
Grand Theft Auto IV
In GTA IV and its episodes, there is no message reading "Busted" on the screen when being arrested. Instead, the screen will turn grey and, after a few seconds, the player will be returned to the nearest police station. However, if something interrupts the police officer doing the "arrest" animation (such as a car crashing into them), the game will glitch and it will continue showing the slow-mo scene until the player presses the left mouse button, which skips the scene. This makes GTA IV the only game in the series not to feature the terms "Busted" or "Wasted".
If Niko has a wanted level while he is drunk, the cops will wait for him to sober up before attempting to arrest him.
When an NPC gets arrested in Grand Theft Auto IV, driving a police vehicle will occasionally have the officer and criminal enter the player's vehicle. If this occurs, after a few seconds Niko will receive a wanted level and the officer and criminal will exit the vehicle once it stops. If the player leaves the vehicle near the criminal and officer, they will enter the vehicle again and begin to drive away. Stealing the vehicle back will not earn the player a wanted level.[ ]
GTA Chinatown Wars
In the PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS versions of GTA Chinatown Wars, cheating wanted stars away with a cop on foot will result in the cop opening a door on a random vehicle and walking away.
The police arrest the player by running up to them once their health is low. The player is then knocked on to the ground and "BUSTED" appears.
When Huang is arrested, there will be a cop car siren lighting and a gunshot played in the background.
Grand Theft Auto V
In GTA V, when the player is busted, the scene is a combination of what happens when they get busted in the 3D Universe games and GTA IV; the screen turns black and white (like GTA IV), with the "BUSTED" word appearing later on (like in the 3D Universe games).
When the player gets busted they won't lose their guns, (with the exception of the Carbine Rifle) but ammo and body armor is confiscated after bail is paid (though the Stun Gun can still be used afterwards due to its unlimited ammunition).
If the player has the Nightstick in their inventory when busted it will be confiscated, possibly to match the Carbine Rifle being confiscated as well when busted.
If the player is 'drunk driving', pedestrians might make remarks and call the cops.
If the player has a wanted level in First-Person View they may be busted without noticing.
If the player presses the sprint/run button, they will stop surrendering and officers will begin to shoot at them.
When the player gets arrested in a mission, the term Busted isn't used. Instead, the game will show a standard "Mission Failed" screen with the text "[Protagonist Name] was arrested".
If the player is busted while carrying a Carbine Rifle, it will be confiscated along with all of its mods, meaning the player will have to purchase new ones at Ammu-Nation.
Grand Theft Auto Online
The player can't normally get busted in Grand Theft Auto Online since this game lacks a busted mechanic. Because of this, the police will always shoot at the player, even if they only have one wanted star and are completely unarmed.
There are still some circumstances where a busted scenario will occur.
- The player can actually be busted if they are inside an Avenger, MOC truck or Terrorbyte after spending enough time in them with a wanted level. The vehicle may or may not be destroyed by police gunfire but the word busted will flash momentarily on the screen and the player will be teleported to the nearest police station . There will be no monetary or weapon/ammo penalty when this occurs.
- The player can get busted if killed by police during some of the Biker Defend [ ] missions. They will then spawn near the closest police station.
- In one of the Casino Work missions added with the The Diamond Casino & Resort update, Agatha Baker orders the player to dump a body found in the casino at a secluded area. As the player drives to the site, police patrols will be encountered and the player has to avoid them. If caught by the patrols, the player will be forced to stop the car and get arrested, failing the mission and teleporting the player to the nearest police station.
- On certain missions and side missions, getting arrested will not display the "Mission Failed!" text which is odd. This can also happen if the player is killed during a certain mission.