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How Long Can I Be Held in Custody by Law Enforcement?

In most cases, someone who is arrested will be taken into custody by law enforcement, processed into jail and then be formally charged with a crime before a judge during an arraignment hearing; but what happens if no formal charges are filed? Can the police hold you behind bars until they feel like taking action? How long do you have to wait before your case goes to trial? When should you involve a criminal defense attorney in your Arizona arrest case?

What Happens After an Arrest?

After an arrest, you are in a bit of a legal gray area. You have been taken into custody by law enforcement, but you have not been formally charged with a crime. As a result, you must remain in custody while awaiting charges for a period of time. If that time expires and you have not been charged, you must be released. While waiting, you will likely be brought before a magistrate judge who will determine your bail amount, if any. This differs from an arraignment in that, during an arraignment hearing, you are formally charged with a crime and are required to enter a plea. This is also when a trial date is set, and you will remain in jail until your trial.

If you are not charged within the hold period, you will not be arraigned, but a bail amount and the posting of bail may be required – see “how to post bail”. Once again, this is an area of legal limbo because you are still in jail while waiting to see what is going to happen, so you should contact your defense attorney as soon as possible after your arrest to ensure that you receive adequate representation from the start of the criminal justice process.

While Waiting in Jail:

  • Exercise your right against self-incrimination
  • Follow commands by law enforcement within legal boundaries
  • Contact your defense attorney
  • Know that you have not been formally charged with a crime until you have been arraigned

How Long Can You Be Held After an Arrest?

In Arizona, as well as in many other states, there is a limit of 48 hours after an arrest before formal charges have to be filed.

If charges are not filed during this two-day window, the arrested individual must be released from custody and should not face further legal prosecution. You will still have a criminal record in the sense that you have been arrested. You may also have had your picture taken, sometimes referred to as a mugshot, and this picture may be available to the public. From there, your arrest record and photo may be posted on a number of different websites as they could be public record. Unfortunately, removing this information from the web can be difficult without the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney.

Hold Limits After an Arrest in Arizona:

  • Law enforcement can hold you for 48 hours before they must charge you
  • You will still have an arrest record that might be expunged
  • Your mugshot might be available online
  • Your attorney can work with you to remove online records of your arrest if you are released

Why is There a Hold Limit?

The purpose of a time limit being placed on hold after an arrest is to force the police and the district attorney’s office to make a decision as to whether sufficient evidence exists to formally charge you with a crime. Without limits, people could be held indefinitely, and this could give law enforcement the chance to twist the facts and find loopholes to charge you with something. The fact that time limits exist on custody is a good thing for people who have been arrested because it protects them from the unnecessary delay.

Hold Limits Exist to Protect Your Rights

  • Hold limits eliminate unnecessary delay
  • Remaining silent will not extend a hold limit
  • You must be formally charged within the hold limit window
  • Your defense attorney is the best resource for legal counsel after an arrest

Can I Be Arrested Again?

Even if you are released without being charged, this does not mean your legal troubles are over. You now have an arrest record, regardless of the fact that you have not been formally charged. Additionally, if new evidence comes to light, you may be re-arrested on suspicion of the same crime and then charged. This is why it’s a good idea to make sure you have teamed up with a criminal defense attorney after you are released. Your defense attorney can work with you to ensure you have a strategy in place should you be arrested again for the same crime or a crime related to the first arrest.

After a Release Without Charges:

  • New evidence could lead to a re-arrest
  • You still have the presumption of innocence
  • The hold time starts over again if re-arrested
  • Have a plan in place with your defense attorney

What Should You Do After an Arrest?

After an arrest, it’s important to exercise your rights. Among these is the right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination, so it is recommended that you do not speak to the police until you have your attorney present. The arresting officer may try to chat with you in a friendly manner after an arrest, but this is usually to get you to admit to criminal activity. Be courteous but stand firm in protecting your rights.

You may also be brought in for interrogation after an arrest and while awaiting charges. No matter the situation, politely let law enforcement know that you will not be answering any questions until you have your attorney present. The bottom line? Unless you are in need of immediate medical attention, do not speak until you have had a chance to consult with your attorney. Remember that this is your right, and you should not be penalized for exercising it.

Protect Your Rights After an Arrest:

  • Contact your defense attorney as soon as possible
  • Remain silent unless you need medical help
  • Be courteous and respectful
  • Remember that you have legal options if you are arraigned

Contact an Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney at DM Cantor

No matter the reason for your arrest, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Whether you’re currently being held or you’ve been allowed to go free after an arrest, DM Cantor can help you clear your name. All of the of our defense attorneys are experienced in providing criminal defense legal services to Arizona residents to fight charges, expunge arrest records and more.

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