Kestenbaum Law Group
Free Initial Consultation Se Habla EspaƱol
Phone: 818-616-4312
Criminal Defense From A Former Prosecutor

Understanding the difference between detention and an arrest

If you are facing criminal charges, the situation likely began with an interaction with law enforcement. Perhaps they started with a few questions or perhaps you immediately found yourself in handcuffs. If there was any ambiguity, it might be unclear whether you were arrested or simply in detention. It is worth noting that while the former may remain on public record, the latter is an informal interaction.

Why does this matter? Even if you are acquitted of the charges you face, having an arrest on record can negatively impact your life. An attorney can fight to have the instance categorized as a detention. The following are three of the top criteria which determine whether an arrest or a detention took place.

Duration of your interaction

Generally, if a law enforcement officer instigates an interaction that is not an arrest, that interaction must be reasonably brief. Though no specific time limit exists, any interaction that extends beyond that of a cursory and unobtrusive exchange is either an arrest or a false arrest — the latter of which is a serious legal violation. How long the interaction lasts is thus an important consideration. 

Freedom to leave the scene

Another important criterion in determining whether an arrest or detention took place is whether or not you were free to leave the scene. If the answer is yes, then you were merely detained — and this should have been brief. If an officer does not allow you to leave, however, he or she has effectively arrested you.

Physical treatment of suspect

Though the word detainment calls to mind physical confinement, if you are physically impeded by law enforcement, this typically qualifies an interaction as an arrest rather than detention. According to PoliceLink, for example, handcuffing could even be considered excessively forceful in some instances. If the police handcuff you or the interaction otherwise becomes physical, you are the subject of arrest.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
Superlawyers Badge avvo rating 10 provisors badge avvo clients choice badge avvo top contributer 2017 badge av preeminent badge SFVBA badge 10 best 2014 badge yelp badge

Contact The Firm

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

email us for a response
Get Map & Directions
office address

Kestenbaum Law Group
14401 Sylvan Street
Suite 100
Van Nuys, CA 91401

Phone: 818-616-4312
Fax: 323-729-3258
Van Nuys Law Office Map

office number
office timing

Monday - Friday: 8AM-6PM
Saturday: Closed
Sunday: Closed