Man being put in handcuffs

Are You Being Detained or Arrested?

By Joel Hancock

It’s easy for many people to confuse being detained with being arrested. However, the legal implications of these two interactions with police vary significantly. 


In order for police officers to arrest you they require a certain threshold of evidence. So, what can an officer do if he or she believes that you committed an illegal activity but lack the aforementioned evidence? They can detain you. Police can hold you where you are without actually placing you in custody. They use the opportunity to speak with you and ask you questions in order to try and obtain more information. However, a gut feeling that you’ve been engaged in illegal activity isn’t enough; the police must have proof or at least a good reason to think so. Under detainment the police can hold you for up to 20 minutes. Detainment may result in arrest. However, the police may not even tell you that you are being arrested; If you are read your Miranda rights and aren’t free to leave you can make the assumption that you are.


Being arrested is more serious than being detained. During an arrest the police will take you into custody. You will know that you are being arrested because you will not be able to leave. In order to arrest you the officer(s) need sufficient evidence of a crime (probable cause). If they lack such evidence then they must have a warrant for your arrest. When you are being arrested, the police are required to read you your Miranda rights. Miranda rights include the following:

  • You have the right to remain silent;
  • Anything you say can – and will – be used against you;
  • You have the right to an attorney; and
  • If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you.

When you are being arrested, the police may use reasonable, necessary force. They are also legally allowed to conduct a brief search of you and your possessions. Then you will be taken to a jail, detention facility, or police station. Once there you will be alerted of the charges against you and will have the chance to contact an attorney. 

Attorney Joel Hancock at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

If you have been charged with a crime and believe that you are innocent or that your rights have been violated, you may have options. You have the right to defend yourself. Your best bet of doing so successfully is with the help of a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney who understands what you are up against and will fight on your behalf. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you to fight this charge. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

About the Author
Joel Hancock is a native of Carteret County, NC. He devotes 100% of his practice to defending those accused of traffic infractions, DWI, misdemeanors, and felonies in Carteret County, NC.