How Long Can Police Detain You without Charging You?

One of the worst nightmares for any person is to find themselves detained in a police station not knowing what they are charged with. Fortunately, even law enforcement officers are not above the law. You cannot be detained without being charged beyond a reasonable period of time. And no matter what the direction of events may be, you should contact an Easley criminal defense lawyer as soon as you have the right to make a phone call.

Let us explain the concept of being detained and how it differs from being arrested.

Detained vs. Arrested – What Is the Difference?

A police officer may stop a person in a public place and ask them questions if they have probable cause that the person may be breaking the law. The officer has the right to ask basic questions, such as your name, address and to show an ID.

At this point, many people believe that they are under arrest. This is not the case. Instead, you are being detained. And one of the most important things to remember during interactions with law enforcement officers is ask them if you are free to go.

If the officer’s probable cause for suspicion is confirmed through a background check on their handheld device, then the officer will inform you that you are under arrest and read you your Miranda Rights.

From this moment onwards, you are no longer free to leave. You will be escorted to a police station, where you will go through the booking process.

What the Law Says about Duration of Detaining a Citizen

A decision of the Supreme Court determined that a person cannot be detained for more than 20 minutes under the Terry Law. This law refers to cases when a person is stopped by a police officer who suspects that they may be in the course of committing a crime.

The court found that this period of time is sufficient for a police officer to ascertain whether the probable cause is confirmed or if there are no grounds for detaining the person.

At this point, an experienced Easley criminal defense lawyer will refer to a relevant landmark case to demonstrate the court’s view on what represents unconstitutional detainment:

police officers cannot detain citizens without a probable cause

Rodriguez v. United States (2015)

In this case tried before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit, the defendant Dennys Rodriguez claimed that he was subject to an unlawful search and seizure. He was pulled over for a traffic violation by a police officer with a K-9 unit.

Despite his refusal to allow the police dog to sniff around his car, Mr. Rodriguez was instructed to exit his car and the K-9 dog walked around his car and alerted the officer to the presence of drugs. The police officer proceeded to search the car and found a bag of methamphetamine.

Mr. Rodriguez filed a motion to suppress the evidence. The case eventually reached the court of appeals, which sided with the defendant and stated that he was unlawfully detained. The police officer, in the court’s opinion, exceeded the reasonable period of time for handling the traffic violation, which represented the probable cause for detaining the defendant.

What to Do If You Were Unlawfully Detained without Probable Cause

The best decision after a detainment is to stay calm and cooperative with the police officer. There is no point in trying to leave if the officer does not permit it – you will only offer them probable cause for being arrested.

Ask clearly if you are charged with a crime and, if so, make sure that the officer reads you your Miranda Rights. When you are taken into custody, invoke your right to make a phone call and reach out to an attorney to start building your defense strategy.

Schedule a Free Case Review with an Experienced Easley Criminal Defense Lawyer!

When police detain you, they must have probable cause and complete their verification within a reasonable period of time. If you are detained without being charged for more than 20 minutes, any evidence the police officer finds may be inadmissible in court because your constitutional rights were infringed.

An experienced Easley criminal defense lawyer will closely analyze the entire interaction between the police officer and you and the timeline from the moment you were stopped. This will help the attorney put together a strong defense that may clear you of all charges.

We offer each new client a free case review, so call us today: 864-777-4615!

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