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What Is the Difference Between Arrested and Detained?

If you have ever questioned what is the difference between arrested and detained this article is for you.  Were you ever in an unfortunate situation where it was unclear if you had been detained or arrested? Would you like to know what rights you have under either circumstance? While there are significant differences between arrest and detainment, the lines can sometimes become rather blurry to those unaware of them. 

PRO TIP: Read this great article to learn what happens if you leave the scene of a hit and run! We know it will be informative.

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Arrested v. Detained

What is Being Detained?

In order to be detained, an officer must be aware of some kind of criminal activity that the suspect has committed. In addition, the officer must have decent suspicion or proof for detention to occur. 

While officers can detain a person that holds suspicious grounds, it is important to note that officers may not detain someone purely based on suspicion alone. The police must have good reason to believe that the person has committed illegal activity. 

If the suspect in question has not yet been arrested, the police may take them into questioning for a reasonable amount of time. In accordance with the United States Supreme Court, this is 20 minutes. Unlawful detention may occur if a person is not free to leave when there is no reasonable belief to stay. 

Some important things to note:

  • Detainment may lead to arrest
  • You have the right to remain silent for the duration of the detainment 
  • You have the right to ask for an attorney
  • Police may pat you down if a dangerous weapon is suspected
  • You do not have to give information regarding your identity if detained
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What is Being Arrested?

In the event of being arrested, all liberty and freedom of movement are taken away by the police, and the suspect is put into custody. In most cases, an arrest warrant is required. However, there are cases in which a warrant is not necessary if a credible source gives sufficient evidence of the suspect committing a criminal act. Almost immediately after being arrested the officer should state Miranda Warnings and remind the person of their rights to remain silent, or to have an attorney present, whether that be a private or state-provided attorney. 

An arrest is certainly more serious than a detainment. Officers may use any amount of force required to make an arrest, and may also conduct a limited search on your belongings. Most importantly, an arrest is made when there is probable cause for the crime committed by the suspect. It’s important you speak to the police and ask important questions if you are being arrested.

Following the arrest, the suspect will be taken to a jail, detention facility, or police station. They will be given an opportunity to contact a lawyer and be made aware of the charges made against them. 

Important things to note:

  • It may not be clear at which point detainment turns into an arrest
  • You may be arrested even if law enforcement doesn’t mention the word “arrest”
  • It is required to give your identification information if arrested 
  • An officer may use any force necessary during an arrest

The Main Differences Between Arrested And Detained

Below are the main differences between detainment and arrest:


  • A term used for a person an officer believes or suspects has committed or would have committed an illegal act
  • There is a limited time you may be detained
  • Freedom of movement is restricted
  • You may keep identification information private during interrogation


  • A term used for a person who is reasonably believed to be guilty of committing an illegal act
  • There must be probable cause to be arrested
  • You are required to give identification information
  • An officer may use more force during an arrest

To reiterate, an arrest is an event that occurs when a person has probable cause of committing or is about to commit an illegal crime. To be detained is an event that occurs when one is suspected with reasonable belief to have committed an illegal crime. 

Conclusion: What Is The Difference Between Arrested And Detained

To conclude, on our topic what is the difference between arrested and detained, there are several main differences between the two. An arrest is certainly more serious, however, detainment has the potential to become just as complicated. This is why it is important to be aware of the differences between the two terms and to become educated on the rights that you have within each. You should also hire a lawyer if you are being arrested for any reason. If you are arrested or detained in Louisiana, the Barkemeyer Law Firm would be an excellent choice. You can see our practice areas here.

After reading this article, you should have the answer to the question “What Is the Difference Between Arrested and Detained?”


Louisiana DWI & Criminal Lawyers

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Louisiana criminal lawyers and DWI attorneys at the Barkemeyer Law Firm providing legal defense services for clients in Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa, Port Allen, Alexandria, New Orleans, Lafayette, Metairie, Kenner, Gretna, Hahnville, Chalmette, Slidell, St. Tammany, St. Charles, St. John, St. Bernard, Mandeville, Covington, Shreveport, Bossier, Jefferson, and all of Louisiana.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is not formal legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

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