Can the Police Detain You for No Reason?

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In Minnesota, the police must have a reason for stopping you and detaining you. Knowing what a detainment is can help you obey the law and cooperate with the police. In addition, you’ll have a better understanding of how to protect your rights during police interactions.

Detainment versus Being Arrested

When talking casually, people may use the words detainment and arrest interchangeably. Both terms describe a type of police interaction where you are not free to go.

However, these two terms should not be confused with each other. Under the definition of the law, they are two distinct situations.

What is a police detainment?

Detainment is being briefly stopped for questioning by police. The keyword here is “briefly,” although the law does not place a hard time limit on how long detainments can last. In addition, you are not free to leave during a detainment.

A detainment can happen while you’re on foot or in a vehicle. In order to detain you, the police must have what’s called reasonable suspicion. That means that they suspect that you were, are, or are going to be involved in criminal activity.

There are many situations that could fall under reasonable suspicion. You could be driving a vehicle that matches the description of one that the police are actively looking for. Sometimes, you may be acting in a manner that the police feel is suspicious.

If you are interacting with police and are unsure if you are actually being detained, you have the right to know. You can ask, “Am I being detained?

A detainment ends one of two ways. Either you will be told you are free to go, or you will be arrested.

How is being arrested different?

In order to arrest you, the police must meet a higher standard than for detainment. Police must have probable cause that you were, are, or are about to commit a crime before they can arrest you.

Unlike in the movies, police do not necessarily say, “You are under arrest.” In fact, if a detainment lasts too long, it can automatically turn into a de facto arrest. If it’s not clear to you what is happening, ask, “Am I under arrest?

Your Rights During Detainment

If you are being detained by the police, you have several rights.

  • You have the right to remain silent. You do not have to answer any questions. In Minnesota, you cannot be arrested just for refusing to answer police questions. 
  • In the absence of a search warrant, you can refuse to consent to your car, house, or other property being searched. There are some circumstances where the police may proceed with a search anyway. It’s still important that you state that you do not consent. Refusing may help your case later on.

Your Responsibilities During Detainment

To protect your rights and avoid additional charges, you also have responsibilities during a detainment.

  • Be respectful. Don’t badmouth the police or become belligerent, even if you disagree with what is happening. You can have your day in court later.
  • Don’t try to leave. Cooperate with the police, or you could face an obstruction of justice charge.
  • If you are driving a vehicle, you are required to show police your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance if they ask.

Get Help from an Attorney

There are many situations where your rights may be violated during a detainment. Maybe you were held long enough that the detainment turned into a de facto arrest, but the police failed to prove probable cause. Or, you may have been detained for what you believe was an ordinary, everyday activity. Perhaps you feel the police stopped you simply because of your appearance.

If you were detained by the police and believe your rights were violated, contact us. We will listen to your situation and pursue charges if warranted. No one is above the law, including police officers.


DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact attorney Kirk Anderson for an initial consultation.