Police Station-House Detentions

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What is a “Police Station-house Detention”?

A Police Station-House Detention, or “Detention of a Suspect”, refers to the holding of a suspect at a police station for the purpose of investigating their possible participation in a crime. It usually occurs after an arrest has been made but before charges have been formally filed against the suspect. 

To be more specific, the term “detention” includes any instance where the police have deprived a person of their freedom of liberty. This may occur either before or after a formal arrest. However, the terms “detention of suspect” and station house detention refer specifically to the holding of the suspect at the police station. 

What is Required for a Police Station Detention to be Legal?

In order to lawfully conduct a station house detention, the police need full probable cause to arrest the suspect and bring them to the station for fingerprinting or interrogation. A suspect may be detained for an indefinite period of time before trial for various reasons (for example, to protect the public from harm or to prevent their escape).  

A judicial determination of probable cause should be made as soon as possible after an arrest has been made, especially for warrantless arrests. Generally speaking, probable cause should be confirmed no more than 48 hours after the arrest. 

What are a Suspect’s Rights while being Detained at a Police Station house?

Right to an Attorney:

In any criminal case, a person has a right to an attorney according to the 6th Amendment of the Constitution. However, this right applies only after formal charges have been filed against the suspect. In most station house detentions, charges have not yet been filed, and so the 6th Amendment right to an attorney does not yet apply.

However, a person still has the right to an attorney under the 5th Amendment. This right to counsel only applies to Miranda questioning. That is, the police may not continue interrogating a person if they have requested their attorney to be present for the interrogation. On the other hand, the 5th amendment right to counsel only applies to interrogations for the crime in question. That is, the police may still question the suspect regarding other crimes even when the attorney is not present.
 
Right to Not Self-Incriminate:

A suspect being detained also has a right not to incriminate themselves under the 5th Amendment. They are free to remain silent or to divulge only information that will not lead to further incrimination. Also, any confessions that the suspect makes must be voluntary according to the 14th Amendment. 

That is, the police cannot use force threats of violence in order to obtain a confession. On the other hand, other inmates or detainees can be used by police to obtain statements from the suspect, even if the suspect is unaware of their cooperation with the police. 

Can I be released from a Station House Detention?

One of the criticisms of police station detentions is that they can sometimes subject a suspect to extended periods of detention even before they have been found guilty. It is often difficult to make up for the lost time spent in the station’s holding quarters. 

If it is deemed appropriate, a suspect may request for a writ of habeas corpus to release them from unlawful restraint. These may be granted for example, if the police did not have probable cause to detain the suspect. In such cases the suspect may be released and may be able to recover damages for injuries or losses.

Alternatively, a suspect who has been subject to false imprisonment may sue for damages in a court of law. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Police Station House Detentions?

If you or your loved ones have been subject to a police house detention, a criminal lawyer can provide you with valuable advice and guidance. Of course, it is best to understand your rights beforehand so that you know what to do in the event of a detention. You should do your best to cooperate with authorities, but you should know that you have rights to a lawyer as well as the right against self-incrimination. An experienced attorney can provide you with more information on your rights under the laws of your state.

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Last Modified: 02-02-2011 01:44 PM PST

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