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How long can the police keep someone in jail without charges?

| Apr 8, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

Prison cells can be dirty, uncomfortable and unsanitary places. So, if you’re ever arrested and hauled into a cell, you’ll likely want to get out of there as soon as possible. You may wonder how long the police can hold you if you’re not facing charges.

This question is particularly relevant in times when you stand a greater risk of contracting illness and the Department of Justice aims to extend the amount of time the police can hold people.

Your right to a speedy and public trial

In the movies and on television, people get arrested, and then the show cuts back to the cops and prosecutors. You might have a commercial or some scenes of the prosecutors making their plans, but then you almost always move quickly to the courtroom scene. Total time elapsed? Maybe a few minutes. Maybe an hour or so. But in real life you’ll find some additional steps:

  • The police aren’t supposed to hold you for more than 48 hours without pressing charges, unless a judge finds probable cause for the arrest. The police may also hold you longer in “extraordinary circumstances.”
  • If a prosecutor doesn’t file charges within that time, the police should release you. Otherwise, after a prosecutor files charges, you’ll go to your initial hearing. An officer of the court will read the charges and ask if you plead guilty or not guilty. This is not a trial, but you want to plead “not guilty” if you hope to fight the charges.
  • In most cases, after your arraignment, you’ll have a chance to post bail. If you do, you can leave the jail and resume a semblance of your normal life.
  • If you can’t post bail, the police may continue to hold you in jail. Here, the Indiana Rules of Criminal Procedure say you deserve your trial within 6 months. There are some exceptions, such as if you seek a delay or the courts are too backed up to see you in time. If you file for an early trial, you should have your trial within 70 days of the day you file.

No one wants to find themselves stuck in jail for 48 hours, 70 days or six months. But the government’s understanding of a “speedy” trial may not match yours.

A prison stay will disrupt your life

At Kammen & Moudy, our attorneys understand your right to a speedy trial. You have a right to challenge the prosecution’s charges in public, where you may clear your name. And you deserve to hold the police and government accountable if they don’t move at an appropriate pace.