In: Criminal Defense

What’s the Difference Between Being Detained and Being Arrested?

It’s commonly understood that the police are allowed to stop you and talk to you if they have a legitimate reason to do so without conducting an arrest. Anyone that has been pulled over while driving intuitively understands this fact. If a reasonable person feels like they are not able to leave an encounter with the police, either an arrest or detention has occurred. The line between the two isn’t always clear, however, but determining whether you were arrested or detained can have a significant impact on your rights.

Detention vs. Arrest

Under United States case law, the police may stop a person if they have reasonable suspicion to believe that a person has committed, is committed, or recently has committed a crime. Reasonable suspicion is a lower standard than the probable cause required for arrest, and the questioning conducted by the officer must be “brief and cursory.” A common example of a detention is a traffic stop that does not result in an arrest.

On the other hand, if the police have probable cause to believe that a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime, the police may arrest a person. When the police arrest someone, they take them into custody and restrict their ability to leave. Importantly, an officer can arrest a person without the use of handcuffs or putting them into a cell – the issue is the level of control the officer exercises.

There is no one factor that differentiates a detention from an arrest, and courts will look at a number of factors when deciding whether a particular situation was one or the other, including:

  • The length of time a person was stopped
  • The level of force used by the officer or officers
  • The number of officers involved
  • The way the police physically handled the person who was stopped
  • Even using handcuffs may not be deemed an arrest

Why Does it Matter?

In reading this, you may be wondering why it matters whether you were arrested or detained. After all, in either case, it was likely an unpleasant experience. If you’ve been charged with a crime after an arrest or detention, it can matter significantly, however. For example, if the police had reasonable suspicion to detain you but not probable cause to arrest you and arrested you anyway, any evidence they obtained during the course of your arrest could be inadmissible in court. These situations can be extremely complicated, so it’s important to discuss your case with an experienced lawyer after any police encounter resulting in criminal charges.

Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Denton, Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been arrested or accused of a crime, it’s in your best interest to speak to an experienced attorney as soon as you can. To schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney in Denton, call us today at (940) 222-2488 or contact us online.