Being arrested, or simply detained by the police without an arrest being made, can be an incredibly scary experience, especially for those who have never before dealt with the criminal justice system. You are likely to feel scared, intimidated, and unsure what to do next. However, it is vital that you take steps quickly to protect yourself and your constitutional rights, the most important of which is for you or a loved one to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long. Our attorneys have years of experience ensuring that our clients’ rights are respected and working to get them out of police custody as quickly as possible. Below, we explain how long the Philadelphia police are permitted to hold you without filing charges and how our veteran criminal defense attorneys can assist you if the police hold you longer than they are permitted or if charges are ultimately filed against you in a valid manner.
How Long Can the Police Detain You Without Making an Arrest in Philadelphia?
There is no set amount of time that you can be detained by the police, meaning forced to stay in one place, while they conduct an initial investigation into a crime. Every police encounter is different and the specific circumstances will determine what constitutes a reasonable detention. For example, if you are pulled over for a traffic violation, the police can detain you in your vehicle for a reasonable time, such as 20 minutes, while they check your license, registration, and insurance information, run a warrant check, and fill out your ticket. If they force you to stay at the site where you were pulled over for 6 hours while they make other calls and eat their lunch, however, this would likely be considered unreasonable.
Similarly, imagine a scenario where you are walking out of the mall and the police stop you. You should always ask if you are free to leave, and if they say you are not, then you are being detained. The police must have reasonable suspicion to detain you in such a situation. For example, if there was a report that a man wearing a yellow puffy sweater just committed theft at a store in the mall, and you are wearing a yellow puffy sweater, that would likely constitute reasonable suspicion. However, if you looked nothing like the description of the suspect, reasonable suspicion would likely not exist. In addition, like with traffic stops, the police cannot hold you for any longer than reasonably necessary to investigate your potential guilt, such as by having the store owner come out to identify you.
If you believe that you have been detained without reasonable cause or detained longer than necessary under the circumstances, contact a skilled Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long right away. We can argue to a judge that the police violated your constitutional rights. If this argument is successful, the judge is likely to order that any charges resulting from the unlawful detention be dropped. In certain cases where the detention was extremely out of line, you may also have a civil case for reimbursement.
How Long Does the Prosecutor Have to File Charges after I Have Been Arrested in Philadelphia?
For many crimes, the police will conduct an investigation into what happened and then apply for an arrest warrant with a judge when they believe they have enough evidence to charge a particular person with a crime. In such a situation, the prosecutor will have already signed off on the matter and charges will have already been filed by the time of your arrest. If you are brought into custody, within 72 hours of your arrest your initial appearance and bail hearing must be held. You will want an experienced Philadelphia bail hearing attorney to represent you at this hearing where the judge will decide if you can be released while the case is pending, or if you must be held in jail until the underlying matter is resolved.
In some situations, however, police officers will make an arrest on the spot without consulting any prosecutors or getting a warrant. They can only do this if they have probable cause to make the arrest, such as in a situation where they personally witness you commit a crime like arson. Once the officers place you under arrest, you will be taken back to the local police station for what is known as the booking process. Once you have been booked, the arresting officers will write up their police report and forward it to the prosecutor for review. The prosecutor will then have to make a decision about whether or not the information in the report constitutes probable cause to charge you with a crime
For those in custody, official charges against you must be filed within 48 hours, not counting the day of your arrest, weekends, or holidays. If you are released before the 48 hour period expires, however, the police can simply re-arrest you later once the prosecutor has decided that charges are merited, so long as the statute of limitations has not expired. Furthermore, if the prosecutors need more time, they can request an extension from the court, which is usually granted. However, if you are held in jail for the 48 hour period and no charges have been filed or extension has been requested, a skilled Montgomery County criminal defense lawyer like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long can make a motion for your release and to dismiss any charges subsequently filed as being in violation of your constitutional speedy trial rights.
If You or a Loved One is Being Held without Charges by the Philadelphia Police, Contact our Battle-Tested Attorneys Today
Typically, the police only have 48 hours after an arrest to file charges against an incarcerated individual. If you believe the rights of you or a loved one have been violated due to this or any other unconstitutional action by police and prosecutors, reach out to our skilled Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long right away. We will work to get you out of jail and to get your charges dismissed. Call us today at (215) 302-0171 for a free consultation.