There are instances where law enforcement will hold an individual and deny them permission to leave, but at the same time, state that they are not in official police custody. This often prompts a question about how long the police can legally detain someone if they are not officially under arrest – after all, a person should have the right to leave if they are not being arrested for a crime.
When You Cannot Leave, but You Are Not Under Arrest
In Massachusetts as well as the rest of the country, the term “arrest” is clearly defined under the law. If a person feels that they are not free to leave a police station, then they are considered under arrest. If the police hold an individual without putting them under arrest, they are violating that individual’s rights on numerous levels.
Sometimes police will attempt to justify their temporary hold, stating that they are not arresting the person, but that they also need them to remain in custody until they can obtain a warrant. Regardless of how the police attempt to skirt around the law, if they do not allow a person to leave the station, they are considered under arrest according to Massachusetts law.
What Constitutes an Official Arrest?
An arrest requires the police to take an individual into custody against their will in order to interrogate or prosecute them for a crime. They arrestee is not free to leave and the police do not have to use the term “arrest” for a person to be considered under arrest.
Courts will use the “reasonable man” standard when deciding if a person was under arrest. Therefore, they will assess if the person had the right to leave the police station. If the courts feel the individual did not have the right to freely leave, they consider them under arrest.
Suspects Have Constitutional Rights – and Police Must Honor Them
Individuals, even if they are suspected of having committed a crime, have constitutional rights. A person cannot be held at a police station if they are not under arrest. If a person is detained without arrest, then they are being illegally held by the police. In addition, individuals cannot be detained by law enforcement unless law enforcement officials have a valid search warrant – and they need probable cause to obtain that warrant.
Holding an individual without arresting them is reprehensible and a direct violation of a person’s rights.
A Case Could Be Dismissed
If the police refuse to let a person go, but do not arrest that individual, the case could be dismissed if it goes to court later on. There are numerous defenses to unlawful detainment by the police and any gross violation of a person’s constitutional rights will come to light in court and often provide the groundwork for a dismissal.
Unlawfully Detained? Contact Keegan Law Right Away
If police are questioning you or someone you love without officially arresting them, but they are not free to leave, contact a criminal defense attorney right away. An attorney will protect your rights against unlawful detainment. Contact Keegan Law online or call (617) 799-7644 now to schedule a free case evaluation regarding your arrest.