What is the Difference Between Being Arrested or Being Detained?

Being arrested or detained by the police can be a stressful experience, especially if you don’t know why you were stopped, or you believe you haven’t done anything wrong. When you are stopped by the police, however, it’s important that you understand your rights. Knowing your rights can help you determine the best course of action to take moving forward.

It’s also vital to know the nature of the stop and what exactly is happening. Stops by the police fall into two categories, detainment and arrest. Since your rights change depending on the situation, it is crucial to know if you are being arrested or detained. The best way to know for certain is to simply ask the officers present, who are obligated by law to tell you.

Detainment vs arrest

The main difference between being detained or being arrested is whether you are being charged with a crime. Here are some more details about being detained vs being arrested:

Detainment. People are most commonly detained by the police to justify their presence and actions in a location and to identify themselves. If you are being detained it is because the police have “reasonable suspicion” to stop you. This means that they can prevent you from leaving for a short period while they investigate whether there is probable cause to arrest you. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, you should not be detained by the police for more than about 20 minutes. If you are detained and the police believe you are dangerous, they may question you and search your body or vehicle for weapons or other illegal items like drugs.

If the police detain you for a period of time but find no evidence or probable cause to arrest you, they will let you go. If you feel the stop was illegal, you should write down as many details about the occurrence that you can remember and consider contacting a Fairfax criminal defense attorney.

Arrested.  Being arrested is a more serious matter than being detained. If you are arrested it is because the police have a warrant for your arrest or a probable cause to arrest you. First, you will be taken into custody, which may include being taken to the police station. The courts consider custody to be a situation where the individual doesn’t believe they will be allowed to leave within a short timeframe. Before questioning you after you are placed into custody, the police must read you your Miranda warning, which includes your right to remain silent and to an attorney. If they fail to do so, the information that they gather from you could be thrown out in court at a later date.

If you were detained or arrested, it is a good idea to consult with a criminal defense attorney in your area.

Contact a skilled Virginia defense attorney

If you believe you were unlawfully detained or arrested, having an experienced defense attorney on your side can go a long way. At the NoVa Law firm, we have nearly 20 years of experience representing our neighbors in Northern Virginia and are committed to protecting our client’s rights under the law. Contact us today online or give us a call at (703) 352-9347 to schedule a  free consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.

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About the Author: Eric Clingan

About the Author: Eric Clingan

Eric Clingan is an experienced Criminal Defense attorney and the founder of the NoVA Law firm. He focuses his practice on defending residents of Northern Virginia charged with DUIs, reckless driving, drug charges, and other criminal accusations

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