What is the Difference Between Being Arrested vs. Detention?

Being detained by police does not necessarily result in being placed under arrest.

This is important because there is a significant distinction between the two, especially with regard to your rights.

Knowing the difference between detention and arrest can help you protect your rights while simultaneously obeying the law and mitigating any further damage.


To stop and detain you, police must have reasonable suspicion that you have been involved in a criminal act.

They are allowed to hold you for a reasonable amount of time, and they can question you as part of their investigation.

This is where knowing your rights can make a world of difference.

Contact a Kingwood, Texas criminal defense lawyer if you believe your rights have been violated during a detention.

Holding and Questioning

An individual should only be detained for a reasonable amount of time if not placed under arrest.

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, this reasonable amount of time is approximately 20 minutes.

If you are detained, you do not have to give identifying information, such as your name and date of birth.

However, giving false information during a Texas detention is an offense called Failure to Identify.

If during your detention, police have reasonable suspicion that you are in possession of a dangerous weapon, they may perform a frisk, or “pat down” of your outer clothing.

This frisk does not permit police to automatically search a bag or reach into your pockets.

However, if police feel a weapon during the search, they may reach into a pocket to remove it.

Police are also allowed to use a metal detector or drug dog to aid in their search of the detained person, if they have reasonable suspicion that the person is carrying a weapon.

During detention, you have the right to remain silent, and the right to ask for an attorney.

It is important to note that in some cases, detentions do lead to an arrest.


If police have a warrant or probable cause to arrest you, you will not be free to leave as you would upon conclusion of a detention.

In most cases, you will be taken into custody at this point.

This may mean driving you to the police station, but that is not necessary to constitute an arrest.

Miranda Warnings

If the officer believes that there is probable cause to arrest you, he/she must state that you are being placed under arrest and immediately recite your Miranda warnings.

The Miranda warnings inform a criminal suspect of his/her right to remain silent, to have an attorney present, and to have a state-provided attorney if they cannot afford to hire one on their own.

The only exception to the Miranda warnings is if no questions are asked, other than those pertaining to basic identifying information, such as name and date of birth.

Although you do not need to provide your name and date of birth while under detention, you do need to provide this information if placed under arrest.

In the case of either arrest or detention, attempting to flee is a criminal offense.

According to Sec. 38.04 of the Texas penal code, “A person commits an offense if he intentionally flees from a person he knows is a peace officer or federal special investigator attempting lawfully to arrest or detain him.”

Long story short, if you are detained or arrested, invoke your rights but remain polite and calm.

Contact the Law Office of Andrew J. Williams Today

If your rights have been violated during an arrest or detention in Texas, the skilled legal team at the Law Office of Andrew J. Williams can help.

Law enforcement must abide by a very strict set of rules when detaining or arresting someone.

If they violate even one of these rules, any resulting evidence may be invalidated.

Our experienced lawyers will analyze the details of your case to determine the best way to move forward.

Contact the Law Office of Andrew J. Williams today at 281-358-9111 for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

Andrew Williams, an experienced attorney who can challenge evidence in a DWI case
About the Author: Andrew Williams
I am a criminal defense lawyer with over 20 years experience defending people accused of wrongdoing. I am board certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Only ten percent of attorneys in Texas are board certified in their respective field. I practice criminal law exclusively in both state and federal court including appeals of criminal cases.