Mobile County Criminal Law Attorney

detained by police in Alabama

Is it Legal for Police to Briefly Detain Me?

The police pull you over, and you can’t believe it. Why is this happening? What have you done wrong? In Alabama, police can search your person or vehicle if they reasonably suspect you may be involved in a crime or are about to do something criminal.

This is highly subjective based on the officer’s perceptions and experience, but it must be more than a “hunch” under Alabama law.

During this time, the officer may detain you and ask your name and what you are doing in a particular area. Under Alabama law, you must tell him your name and show him an ID. You may be arrested if you refuse.

The suspect may even be patted down to determine if they have a weapon. How long can you be detained? Temporary detention in Alabama can last over an hour, but in some cases, officers will hold you while they obtain a search warrant.

Officers can check the house for other accomplices or evidence in plain sight in your home. After an arrest, officers may be able to do a more thorough search of your vehicle, home, or personal property.

In this case, a search warrant based on probable cause must be obtained unless there are “exigent circumstances” that may allow police to conduct a warrantless home entry. Those are circumstances such as the suspect’s imminent escape or destruction of relevant evidence.

U.S. Supreme Court Precedent

The precedent for this search was set back in 1968. The U.S. Supreme Court case decided in Terry v. Ohio that officers could pat down someone’s clothing to ensure they were not armed. They can search only where a weapon might be found, such as in a pocket or plain sight. In the process of the limited search, they may find an illegal substance or contraband, which may lead to charges.

In the Terry search, police found a gun in the pocket of one of the men who the police had detained.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided there had to be specific facts that would lead officers to believe the suspects were about to do something illegal, more than a “hunch” by the officers, which is legally open to all sorts of interpretation.

Besides federal law, the Code of Alabama, 1975 authorizes law enforcement to stop any person who he reasonably suspects is committing or about to commit a felony or any other public offense.

Taken together, police do have the right to detain and question you under certain circumstances.

Am I Free to Leave?

It may surprise you that police will not necessarily tell you that you’re free to leave after being detained due to reasonable suspicion. The officers may ask you a series of questions, and you are doing so voluntarily in answering. It will be up to the detainee to ask if they can leave.

If you prefer, tell law enforcement you would like to talk to a lawyer, or you have the right to remain silent. Also, you do not have to answer the police questions. If you are being detained, you have the right to refuse to answer any questions without implying guilt.

Officers can hold you while they seek a search warrant or determine if there is an outstanding warrant for your arrest.

Meanwhile, if you are a juvenile offender who has violated a valid court order, you may be held in a facility for up to 72 hours.

If you require an attorney, one will be appointed to you by the court. Having your attorney present when and if you decide to answer any questions is always a good idea.

Your Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyer

Considering the circumstances of your stop and detention, criminal defense attorney Jason Darley may determine that there was no reasonable suspicion, and you were wrongly detained. In that case, he would work to prevent any evidence collected from being used against you.

Alabama Criminal defense attorney Jason Darley brings decades of experience negotiating with the other side to have charges dropped or significantly reduced. If you feel you were illegally detained and your rights have been violated, contact Mr. Darley at his Mobile, AL office at (251) 732-7058 to see how he can help you.


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