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 How Long Can You Be Held In Custody Without A Charge?

Getting arrested by the police is a stressful experience, and this incident becomes even more strenuous when law enforcement officials hold individuals for long periods. Understanding arrest procedures can make this encounter less overwhelming and help individuals fight for their legal rights. Find out how long a person can be held in custody without the police charging them, and explore the legal options available to those arrested by the police; contact a New Hampshire criminal law attorney from Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC today by calling (603) 707-4800.

What Happens After an Arrest?

If law enforcement officials witness someone committing a crime, they may immediately arrest them; additionally, if the police possess sufficient evidence of an individual’s involvement in criminal activity, they may have reasonable grounds to arrest them, known as probable cause, and may seek a warrant for that individual’s arrest from a judge. The following steps then take place:

  • An arresting officer books the individual, which entails taking them into policy custody and putting their details into the station’s system.
  • Prior to questioning the arrested person, the police must inform them of their legal rights by reading the Miranda warning.
  • Soon after the arrest, the court sets a date for the arrested individual’s first court appearance, known as an arraignment.
  • During the arraignment, the arrested person appears before the judge who informs them of the charges against them, the release conditions, the trial or preliminary hearing date, and their legal right to a lawyer.
  • If the individual is facing misdemeanor charges, and the judge believes the person is likely to attend court, they might release them on recognizance; for felony charges, it might be necessary for the individual to pay bail to leave custody, or if the individual is unlikely to willingly return to court, they could stay in jail until the date of their trial.

What Is Detention Without Charge?

Pre-trial detention refers to when the police believe an individual has committed a crime and decide to arrest them and hold them in custody prior to their trial or hearing. Once arrested, the police determine whether to charge them, referring to the procedure that begins the criminal court process, where the police inform the arrested individual of their intention to prosecute and share information about the allegations made against them.

Additionally, there is pre-charge detention, which takes place when the police hold a person in custody and question them but have yet to charge them. The police may only detain without charge for a specific period; otherwise, they could be breaking the law.

I Have Been Detained Without Charge: What Can I Do?

If detained without charge beyond the legal limit, there are several things the detained individual and their loved ones can do. Here are several tips for safeguarding the detained person’s legal rights.

Collate Evidence

When looking to challenge unlawful detainment, the detained person requires evidence proving this has happened. Relevant evidence may include the police station’s detention records stating the individuals held in police custody and the detainment period, witness statements from legal representatives or family members aware of the arrest and length of detainment, and charge records including the charge brought against the detained person and charge date.

Learn more about what being held in custody entails, including the length of time that the police can hold individuals without charging them, and discover how an experienced New Hampshire criminal law attorney can assist people arrested by the police. Contact Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC today to arrange a consultation.

Informally Challenge the Detention

Before formally challenging the detention by taking legal action against law enforcement officials, the detained person could informally dispute it. For instance, they might mention the lack of charges brought against them during the police interview in custody. Moreover, they could ask a more senior officer to share the reasons for the detention and their right to know any charges made against them.

Consider Legal Action

If the police detain someone without charge for too long, there might be legal options available to hold them to account. The detained individual may wish to consider initiating a separate legal claim, outside of the investigation against them.

What Should You Do After an Arrest?

After getting arrested by the police, the detained person should learn about their legal rights and consider reaching out to their loved ones and an attorney. Here is an explanation of these points.

Understand Legal Rights

Once arrested, the detained individual may request the arresting officers to clarify their legal rights. For instance, they could enquire about when their lawyer might be available and how long the police will hold them in custody before appearing in court.

Share Arrest Details With Family/Friends

If arrested, contact family members/friends to share details of the arrest. This includes the arrest date and location, the arresting officers’ names, the contact information of the detained person’s lawyer, the reason why the police arrested the person, and the charges brought against them.

How Long Can I Be Held in Custody Without Being Charged?

The Constitution, state laws, and other factors dictate how long the police may hold individuals in custody without charge. Below is an overview of these considerations.

The United States Constitution

According to the Sixth Amendment, individuals facing criminal charges have the right to a “speedy trial”. This means it must take place without undue or unreasonable delay. If the case fails to promptly proceed to trial, the arrested individual could have legal recourse.

State Time Restraints

The Constitution only stipulates that the police cannot hold individuals without charge for an unreasonable period. To provide clarification on what this means, many states set time limits for holding individuals in custody without charge. This period is usually 72 hours.

Charging Decision and Remedies

Before charging them, prosecutors review the cases of arrested individuals, and since charging decisions do not bind prosecutors, they might decide to adjust the charges after acquiring additional evidence. Even still, prosecutors must ultimately issue charges; otherwise, the police have to release the detained individual to avoid violating their rights.

One potential remedy for individuals detained without the police booking them within a reasonable period is to acquire a writ of habeas corpus. Per the United States Marshals Service, this refers to a court order instructing law enforcement officials to bring the detained person before the court, where a judge can determine whether the police are legally holding the arrested individual.

Contact a New Hampshire Criminal Law Attorney Today

Thanks to state and federal laws, as well as the Constitution of the United States, the police may only hold individuals in custody without charge for a limited time. Consider contacting a criminal defense attorney to understand a person’s legal rights once arrested, the justice system in general, defense strategy options, grand jury procedures, and plea bargain details. Gain a more detailed understanding of how long the police may hold individuals in custody without a charge, and learn how a seasoned New Hampshire criminal lawyer from Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC can help individuals currently held in custody; call our firm today at (603) 707-4800.


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About the Attorney
Jesse Friedman

Jesse has personally represented thousands of clients throughout the State - from juvenile delinquency offenses through homicides. He has extensive trial and litigation experience and has obtained favorable outcomes for thousands of clients throughout the years.

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