Detention vs. ArrestThe difference between detention and arrest can be dramatic. Your rights in these separate scenarios can differ significantly. To detain you, an officer need only possess reasonable suspicion. To arrest you, on the other hand, an officer needs probable cause. The level of cause for detention and for arrest are distinct and are worth exploring.


To detain you, an officer must have reasonable suspicion, which means that the circumstances surrounding your detention were objectively reasonable enough to cause the officer to suspect that you were involved in or were about to be involved in a crime. Additionally, the officer can only detain you for an amount of time that a reasonable person would consider short. The circumstances of your detention can affect this amount of time, but the U.S. Supreme court holds that approximately twenty minutes represents a reasonable timeframe for detention.

Detention: Cause and Effect

Usually detention involves stopping an individual in a public place and includes no transportation to an alternate location. Such a stop is intended to require you to justify your presence and your activity in the area and to identify yourself. For example, if you’re found loitering in front of a high-crime area, an officer may detain you to enquire about your actions. If the officer detaining you has a reasonable suspicion that you could be dangerous, the detaining officer might pat you down for weapons. This doesn’t mean that the detaining officer can reach into your pockets or bag without permission. Instead, this means that, if the pat down reveals anything that suggests a weapon, the officer can protect himself or herself by reaching in and grabbing the presumed weapon. Other legal search-methods during a detention include implementing metal detectors, drug dogs, and computer searches for outstanding warrants. Detention allows officers to reasonably determine – with minimal invasion of personal rights – whether they should proceed to arrest.


An officer needs probable cause to arrest you. This level of cause indicates that the objective circumstances of the situation led a reasonable officer to believe that a substantial chance or high probability exists that you were involved in or were about to be involved in a crime. If arrested, you will probably be taken into custody, which is characterized by the concept that a reasonable individual wouldn’t feel at liberty to leave based on the officer’s actions. Custody can mean being taken back to the police station, but it can also refer to any situation in which you hold the reasonable belief that you won’t be allowed to leave soon. Once arrested and before you can be questioned, you must be read the Miranda Warning, which advise you of your rights – including your right to remain silent and to have an attorney present during questioning.

Detention or Arrest?

The lines between detention and arrest can blur quickly. Know your rights. If an illegal search made during your detention leads to arrest, the findings of this search can be suppressed at trial.

If You’ve Been Arrested in New Jersey, Call 732-238-8686 Today for More Information

If you have been charged with a crime in New Jersey, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney.  David C. Barry, Attorney at Law, has the skill and dedication to fight for your best possible outcome. David will take the time to explain your rights, guide you through the process, and coordinate your comprehensive defense. If you’re facing a criminal charge, you need a skilled criminal defense lawyer; call David today at 732-238-8686.