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Can a Police Officer Detain You Without Arresting You?

Blogs from July, 2021


What does it mean to be “detained” by the police? What are your rights if a police officer detains you? Keep reading and these questions will be answered, but if you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime after being detained, contact a San Marcos criminal defense attorney at once.

If the police question you, and you get the feeling that you are not free to walk or drive away, you should determine whether or not you are being detained. If there is any doubt, simply ask the officer if you are being detained. If the answer is no, say no more and politely walk or drive off.

If the answer is yes, it means that you are not free to leave, but you are also not under arrest. Detentions that do not lead to arrests or criminal charges are routinely and legally made by police officers all the time. Almost everyone, for example, has been detained briefly for a traffic stop.

When you are pulled over by the police in traffic, an officer has the legal authority to detain you, and should you attempt to leave before the officer is finished with you, you will most likely be taken into police custody, and your arrest will be a legal arrest.

When May Police Officers Detain Someone?

When and why may you be detained by the police? A law enforcement officer may briefly detain you on the street, at your door, or at your business, question you, and ask you for identification if the officer reasonably suspects that you are or have been involved in criminal activity.

You may also be legally and briefly detained if the police are investigating a crime and they reasonably believe that you may be able to offer relevant information about that crime and/or the perpetrator.

Detention Graphic

Suspects who are being arrested are usually informed of the charges, handcuffed, and read their Miranda rights. Detention is different. The courts have held that a detention must not take more time than necessary and must not violate an innocent person’s privacy more than necessary.

What Should You Do If You’re Detained?

If you’re detained and you are questioned about a crime, be polite, show your identification, but otherwise stay silent. Everyone in the United States, at all times, has the right to remain silent. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve been arrested or whether or not your rights have been read to you.

You cannot be compelled to tell the police anything. Simply say to the officer, “I would prefer to exercise my right to remain silent.” You may also ask why you have been detained and if you are free to leave. However, the police do not have to tell you the reason why they are detaining you.

Police Interrogation Graphic

If you believe that you have been illegally detained, or if you are taken into custody and charged with a criminal offense as the result of a detention, immediately contact a Texas criminal defense lawyer for the legal advice and services you will need.

When Is a Detention Illegal?

Whether or not a detention was legal depends on what was reasonable under the circumstances and whether or not your Fourth Amendment rights were violated. The Fourth Amendment establishes the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. . .”

Unfortunately, a few law enforcement officers still think it’s okay to bend the rules. If you are charged with a crime because police officers used unlawful tactics or violated your rights, you must contact a Texas criminal defense attorney promptly and tell that attorney what happened.

Police Detain Graphic

Most police officers act professionally, but you can’t assume that every officer will obey the rules and treat you properly. If you are detained, be as cooperative and polite as possible without conceding your right to remain silent.

What are Probable Cause, Reasonable Suspicion, and False Arrest?

Reasonable suspicion is the legal standard that gives an officer the authority to pat down or detain a criminal suspect. Reasonable suspicion is a police officer’s reasonable belief, based on facts, circumstances, and the officer’s training and experience, that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed.

Probable cause is the legal standard that gives a law enforcement officer the authority to make an arrest. Probable cause does not have to be hard proof of guilt or a “smoking gun,” but it is a somewhat higher standard than the standard for reasonable suspicion.

A false arrest is what happens when a police officer, without legal authority, places someone under arrest or otherwise intentionally restricts that person’s freedom.

What Should You Do If You’re Placed Under Arrest?

If a police officer tells you that you are under arrest, do not resist, even if it’s an illegal or false arrest. Try to remember – and then try to tell your lawyer – exactly what happened. Your defense attorney will advise you about the steps you can take to obtain justice.

The most egregious cases of police misconduct may result in criminal charges. Charges against police officers make a great deal of news, but the fact is, such cases are extremely rare.

Handcuffs next to a badge

Police officers are more often held accountable for misconduct – including false arrests and illegal detentions – with civil lawsuits. A government employee may not violate anyone’s legal or constitutional rights, and victims of such violations may seek to recover monetary damages.

When Should You Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

If you were charged with a crime on the basis of an illegal detention or a false arrest, a San Marcos criminal defense attorney may be able to have any charges against you dropped or dismissed. Your defense attorney can also determine if you have grounds for a civil lawsuit.

If you are illegally detained or falsely arrested by a police officer in this state, you must obtain the advice and services of a Texas criminal defense lawyer as quickly as possible.

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