Levels of Detention

October 18, 2015By Brian Manchester

In an earlier blog I discussed the misconceptions of Miranda warnings and talked about the different levels of police detention. In this article I will discuss these levels in more detail and your rights as a citizen during each level.

Police Detention Levels

In Pennsylvania there are three main levels of interactions with police. They are the

  1. “mere encounter”
  2. “investigative detention”
  3. “custodial detention”

These levels are extremely important when dealing with search and seizure issues with the 4th amendment of the US Constitution and PA’s Constitution. These levels offer different rights during each level of interaction and limits on police.

Let’s start with the least intrusive and work our way up.

Mere Encounter.

The police can approach you at this level with no support of any level of suspicion. However you as a citizen have no official compulsion to stop or respond to the police.

As an example if you are walking down the street, the police can walk up to you and ask to talk to you. You do not have to respond as long as they have no suspicion that you have done anything wrong.

You can walk away.

The problem is you will not know what suspicion the officers might have. If they have a level of suspicion then we move up to our next level of interaction.

Investigative Detention.

The police at this point must have a reasonable suspicion that you have been involved in some type of criminal activity. This level of suspicion required the police to be able to articulate the facts that rose to the level of reasonable suspicion.

During the Investigative Detention the police are allowed to stop and detain and question you for a period of time, this exact period in undefined by the courts. However this detention cannot involve coercive conditions as to constitute the functional equivalent of an arrest.

An example of this type of detention is when a person is pulled over for suspicion of DUI. The police at the beginning of the stop must be able to articulate facts supporting the stopping of an individual for DUI, even though they do not actually know whether you are driving DUI.

That can be determined during the detention of the individual when the officer can investigate the DUI by having the person go through field sobriety test and usually involved a portable breathalyzer.

Custodial Detention.

Now the police must have probable cause. Once into the custodial detention phase you have been arrested for a crime in which the police must be able to meet their burden of probable case. Now your Constitutional rights begin to start applying; especially if the police start to interrogate you.

If the police are interrogating you, your Miranda rights now apply, which include the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

Should you find yourself in a situation where you need legal representation you need to contact criminal defense attorneys that are going to know the law inside and out. Here at Manchester and Associates we represent people across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. At Manchester and Associates, we only practice in criminal defense, thus we understand when people find themselves accused or charged with a crime, and the challenges that each individual case could face in the PA judicial system. With a combined experience of over 65 years, there is almost no situation we have not encountered. For a free consultation we can be contacted toll free at .

Posted in: Miranda Rights

Tags: Criminal Defense, Detention, Levels of Detention, Miranda Rights,

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About the Author

Brian Manchester is the owner of Manchester and Associates in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. His law firm practices DUI and Criminal Defense exclusively throughout the entire state of Pennsylvania in both state and federal court. He has a team of two other lawyers with a combined 50 years of trial and courtroom experience are also trained in science and many other skills that are relevant to criminal defense to include the psychology of persuasion as well. One of his associates is a former District Attorney (chief prosecutor) in central Pennsylvania.   Mr. Manchester and his team routinely handle serious felony cases including murder, manslaughter, sex crimes, complex financial crimes, and serious assaults. A large part of Mr. Manchester’s practice is the defense of alcohol and drug-based DUI offenses as well as drug cases using science and analytical chemistry. Mr. Manchester has training as a Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Instructor. He is one of a handful of Certified Lawyer-Scientists as recognized by the American Chemical Society in the United States. He is a member of NCDD and is a Founding Member of DUIDLA. He is also a member of the American Chemical Society with over 170,000 members across the world. To date, he is the only practicing criminal defense lawyer to belong to the Society of Forensic Toxicologist where he is an Associate Member. Mr. Manchester speaks nationally on the topic of blood and drug testing for alcohol as well as the metrological (measurement uncertainty) in forensic testing.

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