How long can you be detained by the police?

Police can detain you for as long as it takes them to conduct an investigation, but every encounter with police is different and can result in a longer detention period. It’s important to know your rights and how long you can be detained by the police. Keep reading to learn how long you can legally be detained by the police.

how long can you be detained by the police

Legal limits on police detention in Virginia

Unless you ask the police officer if you can leave and they say “no,” your detention is voluntary, even if it doesn’t seem that way. If you ask to leave and the officer says you are free to go, you must take the initiative to leave (i.e., walk away), but do so respectfully and calmly. If you stay, then the detention can continue and is considered lawful.

Factors affecting detention time

Several things affect how can you be detained by the police:

  • If you’re driving, you must wait until the traffic stop is concluded
  • If the police believe that a crime is in the process of being committed
  • Whether you’re deliberately obstructing a police investigation

In some cases, the officer may place you in handcuffs or in the back of the police car to detain you. For example, if the officer believes that you’ll destroy evidence of a crime if you’re released, they may detain you for as long as it takes to either obtain an arrest warrant or collect the evidence they think you’ll destroy.

Your rights as a detainee

The Fourth Amendment protects you against unlawful arrest. The Fifth Amendment protects your right to avoid saying anything that could be considered self-incrimination. You may exercise both of these when detained by police.

For example, if you’re stopped by a police officer, you aren’t required to answer their questions, and you have the right to remain silent. If you choose to use your Fifth Amendment protections, be polite and say something along the lines of “I choose to remain silent, officer.” You should then ask for a lawyer.

If you’re unsure whether you are being arrested or if you can go, you have the right to ask if you’re free to leave. If the officer says that you are free to go, then walk away – don’t try arguing with them about why you were detained in the first place.  

Generally speaking, it’s often better to simply exercise your right to remain silent and let your lawyer argue on your behalf.

Procedures for challenging unlawful detention

If you believe you were unlawfully detained or were arrested without cause, your Fairfax criminal defense attorney can argue that the police kept you longer than necessary for the circumstances. This could result in a reduction or dismissal of your charges.

Contact Select Law Partners for clear direction on what to do and say if police detain you

The skilled criminal defense lawyers at Select Law Partners PLLC stand up for your rights and protect you from police overreach. Contact us today at (855) 541-4867 for a case consultation.