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How Long Can Police Keep You in Custody If You Aren’t Under Arrest?

March 22, 2019

In the course of investigating a crime, police may detain people they believe may be involved in the case, without actually arresting them. This blurred line between detention and arrest is confusing for many people and can cause them to fail to exercise their rights, including calling a defense attorney, because they don’t understand the distinction in their circumstances. Here is what you need to know.

Detention and arrest are different.

Police need time to conduct an investigation, so they often detain people in order to gather more information about a case. A traffic stop in which you wait in your car while the police officer runs your plates is a short form of detention. If the officer finds that nothing is amiss, your detention will end quickly. If he or she finds that more information is necessary, you may be detained for longer. Detention may occur at the scene or at a police station.

You should ask to clarify your situation.

In some cases, people may think that they are under arrest when they are merely being detained and actually have the right to leave. If an officer is questioning you, ask if you are free to go. If you don’t ask, if the case comes to court, the court will assume that the detention was voluntary, and your lawyer may have to prove that a reasonable person would have assumed that he or she was under arrest as part of a defense.

Federal and state laws govern detention times.

There are both federal and state laws that impact the amount of time that police can detain you without arresting you, and in some cases, that timeline can differ based on the nature of the charges. If you are being held by police, it’s important to talk to an attorney as soon as possible.

When you’re being investigated or facing charges, you need a strong defense attorney to fight for your rights. Janet Altschuler knows both sides of the aisle in court and uses her knowledge as a former prosecutor to give you the best defense. Schedule a case consultation with a defense lawyer in Tucson by calling (520) 247-1789.