How Long Can Police Keep You in Custody?

PUBLISHED ON January 15, 2022

Being detained by the police is a traumatic experience. You can obtain some peace of mind by knowing the answers to crucial questions. The first of these is, “How long can the police keep you in custody? We’ll answer that question here.

How Long Can You be Held Without Charge?

How long you can remain in police custody without being charged with an offence, depends on the circumstances. Legally, they can generally detain you without charge for up to 24 hours. You have the right to free and independent legal advice during this period, so it’s always best to ask for an experienced criminal lawyer before making any comment to the police.

The police may not hold you without enough evidence of an offence, fail to make the charges clear, or delay your court date unreasonably. However, they may decide to release you on police bail pending your court hearing or further investigation. You don’t have to pay money right away but must agree to abide by the terms.

The bail conditions are more onerous if you’re a flight risk or have a criminal record. The police may also revoke your conditional bail if you break any terms.

How Long Can Police Hold You at the Police Station for a Serious Crime?

For a serious criminal offence such as Murder, police can detain you without charge for 36 to 96 hours. For offences under the Terrorism Act, they may detain you at the police station for up to 14 days. However, whatever the allegation, you remain entitled to legal representation throughout.

How Long Can Police Detain a Youth?

If you are under 18 or are classified as a vulnerable adult, the Police ought to try to call your legal guardian. The custody Sergeant must always ensure that you have one of the following ‘Appropriate Adults’ to assist you:

  • Your guardian or parent
  • A social worker
  • A volunteer who is older than 18
  • Someone you know or a family member who is older than 18

You have the right to refuse to answer questions until you have a lawyer and an appropriate adult to represent your interests.

How Long Can the Police Keep me on Bail?

After your initial arrest, if there is not sufficient evidence to charge you at that stage, you may be released on Bail. This can be conditional or unconditional. Police can impose conditions, which can restrict your liberty, such as:

  • Non-contact with a complainant, who may be your partner;
  • Exclusions from an address or wider area;
  • Curfews, if it is alleged that an offence has been committed at night;

If you breach police bail, you may be arrested. If this happens, the police will then consider if they have enough evidence to charge you with an offence. If so, they are likely to remand you into custody, to go to court the next day. This will adversely affect your chances of getting bail in court, as it will be said that you have already demonstrated an inability to abide by bail conditions set by the police.

The initial bail period is 28 days but can be extended up to 3 months by a Superintendent. Thereafter, if the Police want to have bail extended further they are required to make an application to the Magistrates’ Court. Your legal team will be able to oppose any such application.

How Long Can the Police Keep You ‘Released Under Investigation’?

These days, most suspects are ‘released under investigation’. The advantage of this, is that you are not made subject to any bail conditions. However, it can become an ongoing nightmare, if you are left in limbo, seemingly with no end in sight.

If you are a suspect in a ‘summary-only’ matter, there is a 6-month time limit, within which the Police must make a charging decision. Generally, summary-only matters are less serious offences, such as Common Assault, Harassment without violence, and most driving offences. If this deadline is missed, the Police will NOT be able to charge you with that summary-only offence.

If you are accused of more serious offences, which are ‘either-way’, such as Fraud or ‘indictable-only, such as Rape, there is sadly no time limit by when the Police must make a charge decision. However, the Police have a duty to act expeditiously in all investigations. Therefore, It is imperative that your legal team seek to hold the Police to account throughout the process, to ensure that there is no undue delay in closing their investigations.

If you need assistance, call Hudson Marshall Solicitors on 0800 368 9939.

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