What’s the Difference Between a Detention and an Arrest?
In a criminal matter, a person might be detained or arrested. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they are different. A detention occurs when a police officer has reasonable suspicion to believe that someone has committed or is about to commit a crime. It is short-term, lasting long enough for the officer to investigate and determine the next steps. An arrest happens when an officer has probable cause to believe that a person was or is about to be involved in criminal activity. It is long-term and results in the restrictions of the individual’s freedoms.
Whether a person has been detained or arrested, there is one key similarity between them: The individual has the right to remain silent throughout the interaction. Beyond providing basic demographic information, they do not have to answer the officer’s questions.
At The Law Office of Thomas C. Thomasian, Esq., Attorney Tom Thomasian aggressively fights for those charged with crimes in Rhode Island. Schedule a consultation by calling (401) 312-4385 or submitting an online contact form today.
What Does It Mean to Be Detained?
To be detained means that a police officer suspects that someone has been or may be engaged in criminal conduct. The officer stops the individual to investigate and determine whether they need to take further action.
The Standard for a Detention
For an officer to detain someone, they must have reasonable suspicion. That means that they have a justifiable basis for stopping the individual. The reasonable suspicion standard is lower than the probable cause standard for an arrest, which we’ll discuss later.
The Purpose of a Detention
An officer might detain a person because they suspect that an individual was committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime. The officer may stop the individual to ask about where they are coming from, where they are going, and what they’re doing. The investigation allows them to decide whether they should let the suspect go, further question them, or arrest them. If the officer believes that the person is armed and that they are in danger, they could search the individual for a weapon during the detention (Rhode Island General Laws § 12-7-2).
The Duration of a Detention
A detention is temporary. It should last only long enough for the officer to determine what to do next. Under Rhode Island General Laws § 12-7-1, a person should not be detained for more than 2 hours.
The Miranda Warning Requirement After a Detention
An officer is not required to read a person their Miranda rights during a detention.
The Outcome of a Detention
Depending on what the officer gleans from their investigation and questioning of the individual detained, they can do one of two things. They can determine that no probable cause exists that a crime has been committed and release the individual. The detention would not appear as an arrest on the person’s record. The officer could also decide that probable cause exists and arrest the individual.
What Does It Mean to Be Arrested?
To be arrested means that an officer had cause to take a person into custody. The individual is reasonably believed to have been involved in criminal conduct.
The Standard for an Arrest
An officer must have probable cause to believe that a person has committed or was about to commit a crime. Probable cause is a higher standard than reasonable suspicion, which is needed for a detention. It means that the officer has concrete and objective facts they can point to to justify the arrest.
The Purpose of an Arrest
A person is arrested when they are alleged to have committed or attempted to commit a crime. The individual has a constitutional right to defend themselves against allegations and confront witnesses. The arrest begins the process that allows them to do this.
The Duration of an Arrest
An arrest is more long-term than a detention. The officer takes them into custody, and the individual's liberties are restricted, meaning they are not free to leave.
The Miranda Warning Requirement in an Arrest
Police officers are not required to read a person their Miranda rights after an arrest. That said, if officials intend to interrogate the arrested individual, they must inform them of their rights to remain silent and have an attorney present.
The Outcome of an Arrest
After someone has been arrested, they will be taken to the local law enforcement agency and booked – their demographic information, fingerprints, and photographs will be input into the agency’s system. They will also be placed in jail and scheduled for an arraignment if they are formally charged. The arrest will be part of the person’s criminal record.
The Right to Remain Silent
Although law enforcement officials aren’t required to read a person their Miranda rights after a detention or arrest (unless the individual’s being interrogated), the person has the right to remain silent throughout the interaction. They would need to explicitly state that they are exercising this right. Once they do, they can keep quiet during questioning without fear of penalty.
Remaining silent protects the individual from saying anything that could be used against them later.
Contact an Attorney About Your Case
If you were detained, arrested, and charged with a crime, you need a criminal defense lawyer on your side to help you through your case. They can review what happened at each stage and determine whether they need to file motions to have unlawful conduct addressed and remedied, most likely through the suppression of evidence.
Attorney Tom Thomasian works diligently to protect his clients’ rights in Rhode Island. Schedule a free consultation with The Law Office of Thomas C. Thomasian, Esq. by calling (401) 312-4385 or submitting an online contact form today.