Can A Police Officer Detain You Without Arresting You?

This is Dennis Boren, criminal defense attorney and former felony prosecutor. And today I want to talk to you about a subject that’s important, something you need to know. Can an officer detain you without arresting you?

You may not ever need this information, but as they say, knowledge is power. And if someone you care about, whether friends or family, find themselves in a situation where they need this information, you may be able to help them, knowing what we’re going to talk about today.


First of all, if you’re approached by a police officer, or if you see flashing lights behind you on a police officer’s car, seeking to stop you, you need to stop. You should not flee. If you do flee, you face detention or arrest. That can be a felony.

It would be a felony if you’re in a vehicle. If you’re on foot, it is a misdemeanor. I actually had a client who did not do this, and he ended up running over and hurting a police officer, which resulted in a second degree felony, which in turn subjected him to up to 20 years in prison. So you don’t want to do that.


If you’re approached by an officer, you do not have to identify yourself. However, if it’s a traffic stop and you’re the driver, you’re going to have to give them your driver’s license. They can require that. And if you give it to them, you’re going to end up identifying yourself, just by the nature of the event.

But passengers, that’s anybody else who is not driving, do not have to verbally identify themselves nor present IDs.


If you are approached by an officer, and you’re just being detained at that point and not under arrest, you have the right to remain silent. We’ve all heard the Miranda rights read to people on TV probably thousands of times.

Those rights do not start with an arrest. They’re always your rights. If you want to determine whether or not you’re under arrest or just being detained, simply ask the officer, “Am I free to leave?”

Now, if you’re arrested, do not give a fake name, or present false identifying information. That is a crime in and of itself.


If you are detained, it can only be for a reasonable amount of time based on whatever the officer is lawfully allowed to do. So it can’t really go much beyond what it takes, for example, to write a traffic ticket. Those kinds of stops are going to be limited in what the courts are going to allow as far as length of time is concerned.

As always, if you have questions about this subject or related subjects, please feel free to reach out to me. And if you find yourself in an interaction with a police officer, your best bet is to pull out your smartphone and turn on your audio app or better yet your video app, particularly in this kind of situation regarding detention and arrest. This will protect you.

Recent Posts