In an immigration context, “illegal detention” refers to the wrongful restraining or imprisonment of a non-citizen.  It usually happens in connection with questioning for deportation or removal purposes.  Illegal detention is similar to false imprisonment, as it involves depriving a person of their liberty to move about or continue with their daily operations.

The most classic case of illegal detention is where a person is wrongfully detained in connection with a crime, and then further examined to determine the possibility of deporting or removing the person from the U.S.  Such procedures are often justifiable, especially if the person really did commit a crime.  However the procedures must be conducted in a manner that conforms to criminal procedures and immigration policies. 

What are Some Examples of Illegal Detention?

Some examples of actions that might be involved in an illegal detention for immigration purposes might include:

  • Knowingly detaining the wrong person/suspect
  • Detention involving excessive force, intimidation, or threats of harm
  • Forcing the detention even though detention alternatives should be used
  • Detention for unusually long periods of time, with no justifiable reason
  • Cruel/ unusual treatment of the suspect (such as depriving them of bathroom breaks or making them perform humiliating acts)

However, you should understand that some of the rights afforded to U.S. citizens may not apply to illegal aliens and persons not protected by the U.S. Constitution.  If you are unsure of your rights as a visitor or resident in the U.S., you may wish to contact a qualified attorney for advice.

What are Some Remedies for Illegal Detention in an Immigration Context?

Depending on the circumstances, victims of illegal detention may be entitled to certain remedies under immigration laws and other types of statutes.  These may include:

  • Suppression of evidence obtained from the illegal detention
  • Retrial
  • Re-examination of evidence in a deportation/removal hearing
  • In some cases, collecting a damages award in a civil hearing for losses caused by the detention (especially where the victim is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident)

Again, the availability of such remedies depends on each individual case of illegal detention, as well as the person’s immigration status at the time of the detention.  Clear abuses of the law, however, will usually be resolved in favor of the victim.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With an Illegal Detention Case?

Illegal detention can often present various legal challenges.  It may involve the overlap of several areas of law, including immigration, criminal, and constitutional laws.  If you or a loved one has been subject to an illegal detention, you may wish to contact a qualified immigration attorney immediately.  Your lawyer can help explain how the law will affect your claim, and what types of legal action you need to pursue.