Any engagement with a police officer can leave you stressed, whether or not you’ve done something wrong. You might think that it should be obvious when someone is being arrested; if a person is told as much and promptly handcuffed, the situation is rather clear. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes a person is not sure whether they are being arrested or just detained-and sometimes it is so unclear that it falls to a judge to make that decision. One thing is for certain: arresting or detaining someone without the proper cause is a violation of their rights. So, what are the key differences between arrest and detainment, and what can you do if you have been unlawfully arrested or detained?
What Is An Arrest?
An arrest is more extreme than a detainment and requires a demonstration of probable cause or lawful justification. It restrains someone’s movement to a significant extent-they may be handcuffed or not allowed to leave for a considerable length of time.
However, the definition of an arrest can be somewhat subjective. If the circumstances of the arrest reasonably seem like a usual formal arrest, then it is an arrest. Likewise, if a person feels they are unable to leave after questioning, there has been an arrest.
If you are being held by police officers, it is within your rights to ask if you are being arrested or if you are free to go. However, if the officer fails to answer, do not retaliate or force your way out. Instead, note the officer’s response to share with a legal professional later.
What Is A Detainment?
Detainments, by contrast, must be as short as the officer can make them, and any investigation carried out must be done in the least invasive way possible. Also called investigatory stops, they are, as the name suggests, usually just someone being briefly halted and asked questions. Though the person is not free to leave during this questioning, they are allowed to go about their day once it is over.
Unlike an arrest, detainment only requires reasonable suspicion of a crime. Since the purpose of a detainment is generally just to ask questions, the officer is allowed a little more freedom in whom they approach.
Some examples of detainment include a police officer quickly questioning someone who is acting suspicious or pulling over a driver who has committed a traffic violation like speeding.
How Can A Detainment Become An Arrest?
A detainment can turn into an arrest in several ways. If someone is stopped and questioned but a probable cause is discovered, making it so that they are no longer allowed to leave, the situation has become an arrest. More indicators that a detainment may have turned into an arrest include: if there was force involved, if many officers participated in the incident, if the person was physically restrained or if the stop took an unreasonable amount of time.
However, all of these things are extremely dependent on the context of the situation in which they took place. If there is an issue of public safety or if a police officer acts in self-defense, for example, these more intensive measures may be necessary for a lawful detainment.
What To Do If You Have Been Unlawfully Arrested Or Detained
If you believe that your rights have been violated by being detained or arrested without proper justification, you have options. It is important that you reach out for legal guidance as soon as possible after the incident. You should also document as much as you remember-what was said, the officer’s name and badge number, any potential witnesses and anything else you can recall. Just be sure that you do not embellish; your testimony is critical, and demonstrating that you have not told the truth will compromise your case.
Unlawful detainment or arrest is a violation of your legal protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. In this scenario, it is you yourself who is being unreasonably seized. Thus, a civil rights attorney may be the right choice to assist you with a lawsuit against the offending officer or department.
Trust The Legal Professionals To Help You Seek Justice
You do not have to merely accept that you were unlawfully arrested or detained. The attorneys at The Brown Firm would be happy to help you navigate the process of filing a lawsuit to seek compensation for the injustice that you have suffered. Reach out to schedule a consultation to ask any questions that you may have or to get started.