Interactions with police officers can be a sensitive subject. On the one hand, many of us want a capable police force that protects us and our loved ones. On the other hand, it’s important to know what our rights are when dealing with law enforcement representatives so we can be sure that our rights are respected. That’s why learning about the circumstances in which an officer can detain you in the state of Texas may come in handy one day.
What Is Detainment, and What’s Necessary for the Police To Detain You?
Detainment is a situation where a police officer has a reasonable belief that you have committed an illegal activity but doesn’t have the concrete evidence required to place you under arrest. Its purpose is to give the officer a legal opportunity to learn more about the situation and decide if there’s enough proof of illegal activity to arrest you. There are certain limitations that the police officer must take into account before they decide to detain someone.
First, they require “reasonable suspicion,” which essentially means that they need a concrete set of facts that when analyzed logically can lead to the conclusion that you’re either engaged or about to engage in illegal activity. Second, they can only briefly detain you before deciding on whether to arrest you or let you go. Based on a U.S. Supreme Court precedent, 20 minutes is a reasonable amount of time for police officers to “conduct a limited investigation of the suspected criminal activity.” However, they can take longer if the circumstances require them to.
What Is Arrest?
Being arrested is what happens if the police officer detaining you believes there is sufficient evidence to take you into custody and restrict your freedom of movement. Since detainment happens spontaneously, the police officer won’t have a warrant for your arrest that was issued by a judge or magistrate. However, believing they have probable cause that you’ve committed a felony offense is enough to give them the right to make the arrest.
They typically establish their grounds for arresting you during the detainment period by asking you related questions. While you’re not obliged to answer those questions, responding with false information is against the law. Also, if they have a reasonable belief that you may be holding a weapon, they have the right to pat you down. If they feel something that may be a weapon while touching your outer clothing, they have the right to reach into your pockets and examine it.
How Do You Know When Detainment Turns Into Arrest?
You may not notice right away that your detainment has turned into arrest, as police officers aren’t required by law to mention the word “arrest.” The two major signs that let you know that you’re under arrest are:
- Your freedom of movement is further restricted: While the police officer can restrict your ability to leave the scene when detaining you, an arrest limits your freedom of movement even further. This may mean that you’re put in handcuffs or told to place your hands on the car.
- They read your Miranda rights: If the police officer decides to arrest you, they must read you your Miranda rights. These let you know that you have the right not to say anything until you meet with your attorney and that the state will provide you with one if you can afford it.
Tips on How To Act When Being Detained
If you’re in a situation where a police officer decides to detain you for whatever reason, your demeanor and actions in the following minutes can make the difference between your case being dismissed and further action being taken. Here are some tips on how you should act and behave when you’re being detained:
Stay as Calm as You Can
Although this may be a novel and stressful situation for you, it’s important to make a conscious effort to remain as calm as possible. This can help suggest that you have nothing to hide and that you’re not a threat to the officer or to your community. If you feel you’re being overcome by emotions, focus on your breath. While your instinct is to take quick and shallow breaths, this can only increase your anxiety. Taking deep, slow, and regular breaths can help your brain regulate your emotions.
Use Your Rights
Remember that the law allows you to stay completely silent, regardless of the questions that the police officer asks you. If you feel calm and confident, you can provide a reasonable explanation that may demonstrate your innocence. If not, it’s best to simply tell the officer that you want to use your right to remain silent until you have the chance to speak to an attorney.
One of the worst things you can do when being detained is get into an argument with the police officer. Regardless of how unfair you think the whole situation is, arguing with the police can’t make it better but can make it worse. You’ll have your chance to present the arguments for your innocence later. This also applies to physical arguments. Even if the officer is being unnecessarily abusive toward you in their speech and demeanor, never respond physically. This can be used against you later, and in extreme situations, your safety may be at risk.
Call Case J. Darwin Law Office if You’re Being Detained or Arrested
If you’re in a situation where a police officer is detaining you for whatever reason, politely request to speak to a lawyer and contact us at Case J. Darwin Law Office in San Marcos, Texas. Our attorneys are experienced in a wide variety of legal issues and will work with you to establish the validity of the accusations against you and formulate an effective defense. Not taking any risks when dealing with law enforcement officers can maximize your chances of walking away from the situation with no long-lasting repercussions.