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How Long Can the Philadelphia Police Hold You Without Charges?

While the police have a broad power to execute arrests and take people into custody, they have a limited time to keep them in detention without charges. If a person is kept for too long, they must be released, or the police have violated their rights.

Typically, the police can only hold a person for 48 hours before charges have to be filed. In some cases, this detention may last for up to 72 hours. A significant problem many defendants run into is that they are detained without realizing it. Not every detention is associated with an arrest and a pair of handcuffs. If you were unable to leave on your own, you were being detained. If you are detained for too long, an attorney can advocate for your release. In some cases, evidence obtained during an unlawful detention can be suppressed.

Contact our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers immediately if you were arrested and held for more than two or three days with no charges filed. Any information or evidence obtained during an unlawful detention should be suppressed. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 and ask for a free case review.

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, this would likely be considered unreasonable.

Under some circumstances, police may even be able to handcuff you or put you in the back of their squad car during an investigatory detention. This is separate from an arrest and often has complex legal justifications (if it is justified at all).

If you believe that you have been detained without reasonable cause or detained longer than necessary under the circumstances, contact our skilled Bucks County criminal defense lawyers 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 Do I Know I Am Being Detained by the Police in Philadelphia?

Ideally, the police should clarify that you are being detained and cannot leave. However, this is not as clear as one would hope in many situations. In many cases, the police have not made an arrest, yet the suspect feels unable to leave. Other times the police arrest a suspect but attempt to hold them for days before prosecutors file charges.

Imagine a scenario where you walk 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, 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.

Knowing whether you are being detained is important because certain rights kick in when you are in police custody. For example, if you are being questioned by law enforcement while being detained, they must read you your Miranda rights. These are your rights to remain silent and to have a lawyer present while you are questioned. If the police fail to read you these rights before asking you questions, any incriminating answers must be suppressed. If you are questioned while in police custody, you can invoke your rights and contact our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys for help immediately.

In addition, like with traffic stops, the police cannot hold you for any longer than reasonably necessary to investigate your potential guilt. In the example of the alleged mall theft above, a reasonable about of time might be long enough for the store owner to come out to identify you. Once it becomes clear that you are the wrong person, the police should release you.

What Constitutes a Police Detention in Philadelphia?

Sometimes there are discrepancies in what the police say and what they do. In some cases, the police do not make an arrest, but their actions constitute a detention. Our Delaware County criminal defense lawyers can help you review your interaction with the police and determine whether or not you were detained.

One important question you must ask yourself is, did you feel free to leave? The police have a lot of power and can be rather intimidating. In many cases, even when a suspect is not under arrest, they feel unable to leave without getting into even more trouble. This is especially prevalent in cases where the police do not inform people that they are free to leave. Leaving the status of your detention unclear is sometimes a tactic used to hold you for longer while the police gather evidence to press charges.

You should also consider how many officers were involved in your case. When a single person is confronted by multiple officers, they can quickly feel trapped. Police are not above using intimidation tactics to get people to cooperate, but they cannot force you to stay if you are not lawfully detained first.

When the police confronted you, did you ask if you could leave? If so, what were you told? Did the police tell you that you were detained? If the police gave an unclear answer or refused to answer, we can argue that you were in fact detained.

In any of the above situations, our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers can argue that you were in police custody and that the police violated your rights by not reading you your Miranda rights and following other important protocols. Evidence gathered during this time to support criminal charges can be suppressed because your detention was unlawful or lasted far too long.

When Are the Police in Philadelphia Allowed to Detain Me?

In general, there are two things a police officer needs to stop and detain an individual. First, the officer needs reasonable suspicion to stop someone. Second, they need probable cause to arrest them. If, after stopping someone with reasonable suspicion, the officer cannot find any probable cause to arrest, the detention must end.

For example, to pull someone over for a DUI, an officer must have some reasonable suspicion that the driver is intoxicated. There is no clear-cut definition of reasonable suspicion, and it may consist of numerous factors. How the suspect is driving, road conditions, the time of day, and the officer’s own experience with intoxicated drivers may all contribute to reasonable suspicion.

Reasonable suspicion is only enough to stop the driver and investigate. If the officer discovers they were mistaken and the driver is not intoxicated, they must end the detention. How long a driver is detained depends on how long the officer needs to investigate. In any case, the duration of the stop must be reasonable.

Police officers are not allowed to detain suspects for unreasonably long periods in the hopes of drumming up probable cause to arrest. Probable cause requires more significant evidence than reasonable suspicion. Much like reasonable suspicion, there is no clear definition, and it may vary based on the circumstances.

If you are arrested, the same principle applies to pressing charges. The police cannot detain you for an unreasonable amount of time, hoping that they will find new evidence that allows prosecutors to file charges. As mentioned before, you can only be held for 48 to 72 hours, depending on your case. If there is not enough evidence to support criminal charges, you must be released.

If police detained you for an unreasonably long time before prosecutors finally charged you, we can argue that your rights were violated. Our Northeast Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys can review the details of your arrest and help you fight your charges.

How Long Does the Prosecutor Have to File Charges after I Have Been Arrested in Philadelphia?

For many crimes, the police will investigate and 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, your initial appearance and bail hearing must be held within 72 hours of your arrest.

In some situations, 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 decide 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 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 extensions have been requested, our skilled Montgomery County criminal defense lawyers 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 a detained individual. If you believe your rights have been violated, reach out to our skilled Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long right away. Call us today at (215) 302-0171 for a free case review.