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How Long Can Police Detain Me Without An Arrest?

Aug 17 2016, by Sean Hessler in Criminal Defense, Legal Blog

There is no shame in being confused about your rights when you are stopped by the police. Most people don’t feel free to simply walk away if the police stop them, and in some cases, they don’t have the right to. The police are allowed to detain you for a period of time without arresting you. But when and how long the police can keep you is complicated and confusing because it depends on the situation. While the police can stop you for some time, they also cannot keep you too long or indefinitely without a proper arrest and then filing charges. Without an arrest and charges, detainment violates your constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

If you were stopped by the police or taken into custody and kept for days or weeks without being officially charged with a crime, contact an Indianapolis criminal defense attorney of Hessler Law at (317) 886-8800 to learn if your rights were violated.

Your Rights During a Public Stop

The police can stop you in public whether or not they suspect there is a crime being committed. But how long can they keep you? They can stop you for a reasonable amount of time to determine if there is a crime underway or has been committed. How long is a reasonable amount of time? This always depends on the exact facts of the situation, which can make it hard to tell at the time. However, a reasonable duration usually includes asking for your name, address, date of birth, to see an ID, and a few additional questions.

You should identify yourself to the police. You can be arrested for refusing to identify yourself or provide a driver’s license if the police have reasonable suspicious you’ve committed a crime. But you don’t have to answer any other questions. You should never lie or argue with the police. Simply answer yes or no when possible or clearly say “I refuse to answer any questions.” You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for doing so.

Always Ask If You Can Leave

During a stop in public or in your car, should ask if you are free to leave. If the police say yes, you should calmly walk or drive away. If the police say you are free to go but you stay, then your presence makes it a legal stop.

If the police say no and continue to question you, remember that you have the right to remain silent and to ask for an attorney. If the police continue to detain you and question you, ask again “Officers, am I free to leave?” The answer may have changed to yes.

After You Are Taken Into Custody

The rules are a bit clearer if you are taken into custody at a police station. Indiana law says you must be taken in front of a judicial officer promptly. Generally, you must be charged with a crime within 48 to 72 hours. That means you should either be let go or appear in front of a judge within a few days. How long you wait can depend on the prosecutor reviewing the evidence and deciding on charging you or when a judge is available.

If you are taken to a police station, you should ask for an attorney as soon as possible and refuse to answer questions until your attorney is present. You have the right to call an attorney yourself, call a family member who can contact a lawyer, or ask for a public defender. You have these rights and you cannot be punished for invoking them.

Call an Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorney Right Away

You have the right to not be unreasonably and unlawfully detained by the police. If you believe the police illegally detained you in public, in your car, or at a police station, call Hessler Law right away at (317) 886-8800. We will review your situation to determine if you were unlawfully detained without being arrested or charged with a crime. If so, we can also discuss your legal options.