If Police Let You Go Can They Charge You Later?

If Police Let You Go Can They Charge You Later

If the police let you go can they charge you later?

In this article, you’ll learn about: 

  • reasons police can let you go and charge you later
  • how long do they have to charge you
  • what your rights are and how to exercise them
  • how to know if you’re being investigated
  • how to know if you’re being set up by the police
  • how long they can detain you
  • how to find out if you have charges against you

Let’s dig in.

Table of Contents

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If Police Let You Go Can They Charge You Later?

Yes, the police can charge you with a crime after letting you go. 

There are several reasons why this might happen:

  • Further investigation: Sometimes, initial investigations are inconclusive, and you might be let go until the police gather more evidence. If they later obtain enough evidence to charge you, they can do so.
  • Pending Lab Results: If the crime involved forensic evidence, the police might be waiting for lab results before making a decision on charges. This process can take some time, and you could be released in the interim.
  • Coordination With Prosecutors: The police often need to coordinate with a prosecutor’s office to ensure they have a strong enough case before pressing charges. This can take time, and you could be released while this is happening.
  • Witness Statements: If the police are still waiting for witness statements or other information, they may let you go before filing charges.

The police have different timeframes to charge you. 

This depends on two things: 

  • where the crime happened (jurisdiction) 
  • the type of crime (alleged offense)

For serious crimes, there might not be a time limit. 

This is known as a statute of limitations. 

If there’s no statute of limitations, the police can charge you anytime. 

That could be years or decades after the crime.

For minor crimes, there’s usually a time limit. 

This limit is also called a statute of limitations. 

It determines how long the police have to bring charges. 

The time limit isn’t the same everywhere.

It changes based on jurisdiction.

How Long Do The Police Have To Charge You With A Crime?

The time the police have to charge you with a crime varies depending on:

  • the crime’s nature 
  • the jurisdiction you’re in 

This period is known as the “statute of limitations.” 

For minor offenses, like misdemeanors, the police usually have one to two years to file charges. 

For more serious crimes, like felonies, the police often have several years to file charges. 

Some severe crimes, like murder or sexual assault, may have no statute of limitations. 

This means the police can charge you at any time, even decades after the crime occurred. 

Keep in mind these times can vary greatly by jurisdiction and a specific crime.

So, for your exact situation, you may want to look into local laws.

Statute Of Limitation Examples

Some examples of the statute of limitations are:

  • Petty Theft: Often classified as a misdemeanor, the statute of limitations for petty theft typically ranges from 1 to 3 years. 
  • Fraud: This can vary depending on the specific type of fraud. For instance, federal law typically allows 5 years for general fraud.
  • Burglary: This is often a felony, and many states set the limit at around 3-5 years. 
  • Assault/Battery: For these crimes, the limit can range from 2 to 6 years, depending on the severity of the assault and the specific laws of the state.
  • Rape/Sexual Assault: Some states, like California and Illinois, have removed the statute of limitations for rape and certain types of sexual assault, particularly when DNA evidence can be used. Otherwise, these crimes typically have longer statutes, ranging from 10 years to no limit.
  • Murder: Most jurisdictions, including federal law, have no statute of limitations for murder. This means charges can be brought at any time.
  • Drug Crimes: Statutes of limitations for drug crimes vary, often based on the severity and type of offense. Federal law generally allows 5 years, but major drug trafficking crimes may have longer limits.

Getting Arrested And Then Released To Charge You Later

The arrest process begins when police suspect a crime. 

They need something called “probable cause”. 

This means they have a good reason to believe you committed a crime.

After the police arrest you, they take you to the police station for booking. 

During booking, the police record your personal information and the alleged crime. 

They may also take your fingerprints and photograph.

Next comes the release process. 

Depending on the crime and your history, you may get out on bail

Bail is money you pay to ensure you return for your court date

If you can’t afford bail, you might get released on your own recognizance. 

This means you promise to come back for court without paying money.

Being let go doesn’t always mean you’re free of charges. 

The police might still be investigating. 

They can bring charges later if they find more evidence. 

In short, an initial release doesn’t guarantee you won’t face charges in the future.

Reasons Police Would Let You Go To Charge You Later

There are several reasons why police might release someone without charging them immediately.

Incomplete Or Ongoing Investigation

Sometimes, the police don’t have all the facts they need to press charges. 

They may still be collecting evidence. 

In other instances, they might:

  • be waiting for witness statements 
  • need to conduct more interviews 

They let you go while they complete these tasks.

Pending Lab Results

Another common reason is waiting for lab results. 

Many crimes involve forensic evidence. 

This evidence must go to a lab for testing, which takes time. 

Until the police get these results, they might not charge you.

Coordination With Prosecutors

Lastly, the police often work with prosecutors to decide on charges. 

Prosecutors review the evidence and help determine if it’s strong enough for a case. 

If the prosecutors are still reviewing the evidence, the police might release you until they finish.

Can Police Charge You After They Let You Go?

Yes, the police can charge you after releasing you. 

This may happen for several reasons.

Statute Of Limitations

The statute of limitations sets time limits for when the police can charge you. 

For some crimes, like murder, there’s no time limit. 

For less serious crimes, the limit can range from a few years to many.

It depends on the crime and where you committed that crime.

New Evidence

The discovery of new evidence can lead to charges after your release. 

For example, police might find additional proof, like security camera footage or emails, that link you to the crime.

Changes In Testimony

Charges can also result from changes in witness testimony. 

The police may later charge you if:

  • a witness who previously said nothing incriminating against you changes their statement
  • a new witness comes forward, the police might decide to charge you

Protecting Your Rights

In the criminal justice process, you have crucial rights police don’t want you to know about.

First, you have the right to remain silent. 

This means you don’t have to answer questions from the police. 

Your silence cannot be used against you in court.

Second, you have the right to an attorney. 

You can have a lawyer present during police questioning. 

If you can’t afford a lawyer, the court will provide one for you.

Read More: Can You Tell Cops To Get Off Your Property

The Right To Remain Silent

When the police arrest you, they should inform you of your “Miranda rights”. 

This includes the right to stay silent. 

Anything you say can be used against you in court. 

If you choose to stay silent, that’s your decision. 

The court can’t interpret it as guilt.

The Right To An Attorney

You also have the right to a lawyer. 

You can consult this lawyer before and during police questioning. 

If you can’t afford a lawyer, the state must provide you one. 

This ensures you have legal advice during the criminal process.

How To Know If Police Are Investigating You

If you believe the police may be investigating you, watch for these signs:

  • Surveillance: You may see police or unmarked cars near your home or work. Police may also follow you.
  • Interviews: Police may ask you or people you know questions. This could be about you or related to something you know.
  • Search Warrants: Police may search your property. They must usually show you a warrant first.
  • Arrest: You may be arrested, which is a clear sign of an investigation.

Read More: If You Have A Warrant Can You Just Pay It

How To Know If Police Are Investigating You For Drugs

Knowing if the police are investigating you for drugs can be tricky, as investigations often happen behind the scenes. Here are some signs that might indicate an investigation:

  • Unusual Police Activity: If police are frequently near your home or workplace, they may be watching you.
  • Informant Information: Someone you know may act strangely or ask leading questions about drug use or sales. They could be an informant.
  • Direct Questioning: Police may approach you directly with questions about drug activities.
  • Search Warrants: If the police have a search warrant for your property, they might suspect drug involvement.
  • Increased Traffic Stops: If you’re stopped by police more than usual, especially if they search your vehicle, it could be a sign.
  • Surveillance: Unmarked vehicles or strangers in your area could indicate surveillance.
  • Subpoenas Or Summons: If you receive legal documents requiring you to appear in court or provide documents, you might be under investigation.

Remember, these signs don’t guarantee police are investigating you for drugs. 

But if you notice them, consider getting legal advice to protect your rights. 

Stay calm, don’t resist police actions, and refrain from volunteering information. 

Instead, ask to speak with your defense attorney if you’re questioned.

Read More: Police Let Me Go After Finding Drugs

How Long Do Police Have To File Drug Charges

The time police have to file drug charges depends on the law in the relevant jurisdiction. 

This period is often set by the “statute of limitations.” 

The clock starts when the alleged crime occurs.

For drug charges, this timeline can range widely. 

It can be as short as one year for minor offenses in some states.

Or there may be no time limit for serious drug crimes, like drug trafficking.

These laws can change, and they vary by state and country. 

Therefore, the exact time frame depends on:

  • where the alleged drug offense occurred 
  • the severity of the potential charges

The police can file charges at any point within this time frame if they believe they have sufficient evidence

This can happen even if the police initially let a person go without charges.

Do You Have A Right To Know If Being Investigated

Yes, you generally have a right to know if you are being investigated. 

However, this depends on the type of investigation and the specific circumstances. 

Law enforcement agencies may conduct investigations without immediately notifying the individual involved.

If the investigation leads to criminal charges being filed, you will be informed about the charges. 

Also, if a search warrant is executed at your property, you usually have the right to see the warrant which indicates an investigation.

During an investigation, law enforcement may also use tactics like surveillance, which you may not be immediately aware of. 

There are circumstances where you may not know until the investigation has progressed to a certain point.

If you are approached by law enforcement as part of an investigation, you have rights, such as:

  • the right to remain silent 
  • the right to an attorney

Aka, you don’t have to say a word to the police when they show up. 

Read More: I Committed A Hit And Run How Long Will It Take For The Police To Find Me?

How To Tell If You're Being Set Up By Police

Recognizing if you’re being set up by the police can be challenging, but there are signs to look for.

  • Inconsistent Communication: If the police contact you in a way that doesn’t seem typical, be cautious. For example, frequent or unusual calls or texts could be a sign.
  • Pressure To Act: Police may push you to do something illegal. This could be subtle, like suggesting an illegal action, or direct, like providing the means for a crime.
  • Out-Of-Character Behavior: People you know may start acting strangely. If friends or acquaintances suddenly propose illegal activities, they could be working with the police.
  • Detailed Knowledge: If someone knows specific details about a crime that hasn’t been publicized, they could be an informant.
  • Too-Good-To-Be-True Offers: Beware of deals that seem too beneficial, like extremely discounted goods. These could be bait for a sting operation.
  • Unusual Interest In Your Activities: If someone shows an intense interest in your actions, particularly any that could be illegal, they might be gathering information for the police.

Remember, these are just potential signs, and they don’t guarantee that you’re being set up by the police. 

However, if you observe any of these, it’s wise to exercise caution and avoid any illegal activities.

How Long Can Police Detain You?

Police can generally detain you for a reasonable amount of time to conduct an investigation. 

This could be a brief stop on the street, or it could be longer at a police station.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not defined an exact length for “reasonable”. 

It depends on the situation. 

For traffic stops, 15-20 minutes might be reasonable. 

For more complex cases, several hours might be acceptable.

If police arrest you, they can keep you until a court hearing. 

This might take up to 48 hours. 

But in some cases, like weekends or holidays, it could take longer.

Remember, being detained does not mean you are under arrest. 

It is a period of temporary custody for questioning or investigation.

FAQs About If Police Let You Go Can They Charge You Later

Here are other questions our clients ask us about police letting you go and charging you later.

Can Police Bring You In For Questioning Without A Warrant?

Yes, police can bring you in for questioning without a warrant. 

This usually happens when they believe you might have information about a crime. 

However, you’re not obligated to go unless you’re under arrest. 

If you do agree to go, remember that you have rights. 

You can remain silent and you can ask for an attorney at any time. 

If you’re uncomfortable, you can leave unless you’re under arrest. 

You can ask, “Am I under arrest?” and “Am I free to go?”

It’s crucial to stay calm, be polite, and clearly express your rights during such encounters.

How To Find Out If Criminal Charges Are Filed Against You

To find out if criminal charges are filed against you:

  • Visit Your Local Courthouse: Ask the clerk to look up any criminal cases filed against you.
  • Use Online Resources: Some jurisdictions provide online databases where you can search for cases by name or case number.
  • Check With Local Law Enforcement: Contact your local police department and ask if there are any pending charges against you.
  • Contact A Bail Bondsman: They often have access to information about pending charges and arrest warrants.
  • Watch For Mail: Courts usually notify individuals of charges by mail. Be alert for any letters from courts or law enforcement.

How Long Can Police Keep Your Phone For Investigation

The length of time police can keep your phone for an investigation varies widely. 

There’s no set time limit. 

It depends on the specifics of the investigation and jurisdiction. 

If your phone is evidence in a case, police can hold onto it until the case concludes. 

This could be weeks, months, or even longer. 

Police must generally obtain a warrant to search your phone. 

The warrant specifies what they can search for. 

If they need more time to extract or analyze data, they may apply for an extension. 

Ultimately, the return of your phone depends on legal procedures and the progress of the case.

Hire A Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are facing a conviction after police let you go, fill out the form on this page.

Our criminal defense attorneys have the experience you need to defend your rights.

This way, you don’t:

  • get wrongfully convicted of a crime
  • spend months or years in jail needlessly
  • get wrongfully accused of a serious crime by police officers

You deserve a fair trial in the criminal justice system.

We can provide you with that.

Talk soon.

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