A common question I get from clients is whether they will have to go to jail if they are arrested by the police. Yesterday, I received a telephone call from a prospective client who was caught shoplifting at a local Target. When he was approached by store security, he ran out of the store and jumped into his vehicle and left the store. He noticed the security guards chase him to his car and realized that they probably had his license plate number. The next day he spoke to a police officer who told him that they they have him on video committing the crime and leaving the store and would be charging him with a Retail Theft. He wanted to know whether he would go to jail if he turned himself in as the police had asked him to. This is a common question I get from people calling me and asking for my advice. Many people do not realize what happens when they are arrested and what their rights are when they are in the custody of the police and are not free to leave.
How Long Can the Police Hold Me Before Charging Me or Releasing Me?
As a general rule, the police can hold you in the police station for up to 48 hours before releasing you or charging you with a crime. This is based on a 1991 US Supreme Court case that established this general rule. However, in that same case, the Supreme Court stated that suspects can be held at the police station for a longer period of time if there is “extraordinary circumstances.” It is the policy of the Chicago Police to hold suspects for up to 48 hours before releasing them or charging them with a crime. Joliet police also have a similar 48-hour strict deadline. Police in Elgin and Waukegan consider 72-hours to be their deadline. What constitutes “extraordinary circumstances” is the subject of debate among legal circles and is unsettled by the courts. However, the Supreme Court has held that holding a suspect in custody for the purpose of gathering additional evidence is unconstitutional. Different police agencies and police departments have their own policies. For instance, police in Waukegan will hold a suspect for up to 72 hours but only after they receive approval from the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office.