What is the Difference Between Detention and ArrestAlthough detention and arrest sound like they’re probably similar experiences, the rights that you’re afforded during these two distinct events can vary significantly. An officer only needs a reasonable suspicion to detain you, but to arrest you, that officer needs probable cause. This difference in causation regarding detention vs. arrest is important.

Reasonable Suspicion

Before you can be detained, an officer must possess a reasonable suspicion that you were involved in or were about to be involved in a crime or crimes. Reasonable suspicion means that the officer was objectively reasonable in suspecting that you were so involved. Further, your detention can only last for what is reasonably considered a short time. The U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on this detention timeframe and determined that approximately twenty minutes amounts to a reasonable amount of time for detention, but the circumstances surrounding your detention can make a difference in its length.


If you’re detained, you’ll probably be stopped in a public place and won’t be transported to another location. The officers who detain you will likely ask you questions about why you’re in the area in question and will ask you to identify yourself. For instance, if you’re detained near an area known for crimes, the officer will have questions about what you’re doing there. Further, the officers might pat you down in search of weapons if they have a reasonable suspicion that you could be dangerous.

If Arrested

Before an officer can arrest you, that officer must have probable cause, which means that the circumstances of your stop would lead a reasonable officer to believe that there is a substantial chance or high probability that you were either involved in or were about to be involved in a crime or crimes. If the officer has probable cause for such a belief and arrests you, you will likely be taken into custody. Custody usually refers to being transported back to the police station. If arrested – and before you can be questioned – you must be advised of your rights in the form of Miranda warnings.

Have You Been Detained or Arrested?

Once detained, the distinction between detention and arrest can quickly become blurred. Know your rights. An experienced criminal defense attorney will help you understand this critical distinction and will protect your rights in the process.

If You’ve Been Charged with a Crime in New Jersey, Call (833) 732-7320 for a Free Consultation Today

If you’ve been arrested in New Jersey, allow the Law Offices of Leon Matchin to defend your case and protect your rights. Our experienced criminal attorneys have the skill and dedication to fight for your rights and to obtain your case’s best possible outcome. Please give us a call at (833) 732-7320 or contact us online today.