The police stopped and then released someone after finding evidence of a crime. What does that mean?

The police do not make an arrest, and no one is taken into custody. Does this mean there will not be charges? Why is the person released and not arrested? What will happen next?

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Stopped and Then Released by the Police

It is a common misunderstanding that the police will arrest someone whenever they encounter them committing a crime. This false impression comes from television and movies. In many cases, police do not make arrests for many reasons, and charges come later through a “complaint and warrant.” If you are wondering, “Why did the police stop and then release me?” the following information will be helpful to you.

Some of the most common reasons police may choose to charge someone with a complaint and warrant, as opposed to an arrest or ticket, are:

  • So that scientific or forensic tests can be completed to examine the evidence further.
  • So that witnesses can be contacted and interviewed.
  • So that a detective can be assigned and attempt to question the defendant.
  • So that physical evidence can be examined.
  • To look for security camera footage.
  • So that an ongoing criminal investigation or undercover informant is not compromised.
  • So that blood or drugs can be analyzed by the crime lab.

If you or someone you love has been stopped and then released by the police, it is essential to consult with a criminal defense lawyer right away!

What is happening behind the scenes?

When someone is arrested and released pending further investigation, various things happen behind the scenes before the prosecutor decides to issue or deny charges. A detective is usually assigned to a case for further investigation after the police make the initial contact. This happens in very serious felony cases and also in seemingly minor misdemeanor matters. The detective has vast resources at their disposal to examine the evidence, obtain search warrants, talk with potential witnesses, and look for new information. Crime labs, evidence technicians, digital forensic analysts, and many other experts are at the disposal of police investigators reviewing evidence. In some cases, the detective might try to talk with the suspect and get a confession before seeking charges.

What determines if charges are filed?

When the investigation is complete, the law enforcement officer will compile the reports and evidence and take the information to a prosecutor for consideration. An Assistant Prosecutor in the Warrants Division will look through everything and determine the charges. The prosecutor makes this decision based on whether the evidence meets the probable cause standard. The prosecutor will then draft a complaint and warrant, which the detective will take to the court and enter the system. If the complaint is authorized and a warrant is issued, the defendant is formally charged with a crime.

It is essential to remember that unless a skilled, respected defense lawyer represents the defendant before charges are authorized, the prosecutor will decide based only on the evidence from the police officer’s perspective. Without a lawyer, the defendant cannot present their side of the story because anything they say “can and will be used against them.” A defense lawyer can negotiate with the prosecutor for less severe or fewer charges. If the attorney can convince the prosecutor their client is innocent or there is insufficient evidence for a conviction, they might be able to help their client avoid charges altogether.

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“Do I need a lawyer before I’m charged?”

A lawyer can make a significant difference by proactively advocating for a client and potentially stopping charges. The lawyer can often help the prosecutor see a different perspective on the evidence. Hiring a lawyer on a pre-charge basis can be unnerving; however, defending an unnecessary criminal charge is much worse.

Additionally, police look for evidence of guilt and rarely try to collect or preserve evidence favorable to a suspect. A skilled and experienced defense lawyer will know how to force the police to maintain favorable evidence and try to obtain evidence that can be used to help defend the client. If the police stopped someone and then released them, their lawyer can build a defense early and preserve favorable evidence before the charges go to court.

“If I’m released pending charges, does that mean it is less likely I’ll be charged with a felony or misdemeanor?”

Under Michigan law, depending on the type of offense under investigation, officers often have to release someone pending further investigation. For example, police officers cannot arrest someone for a misdemeanor committed outside their presence. When someone is suspected of a misdemeanor not witnessed by police, a detective must go to the prosecutor to seek charges or issue an appearance ticket. For felony cases, someone’s arrest triggers strict timelines requiring a speedy Probable Cause Conference and Preliminary Examination. If the police department needs time to conduct a thorough investigation, they will release a suspect to avoid triggering their speedy trial rights.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can the police arrest me later, even if they released me? Yes, this is very common in Michigan. Officers often arrest someone and then release them to investigate a crime further or let the prosecutor decide on the appropriate charges.

How long do the police have to charge me after releasing me? The Statute of Limitations in Michigan is six (6) years for most crimes; however, the police have much longer to bring charges in severe cases such as fraud, identity theft, criminal sexual conduct, and homicide.

What does it mean if the police stopped me and let me go without charging? If you are stopped and released, it might mean you will not be charged, or in most cases, a decision about charges will be made later. It is crucial that you work with a skilled, reputable defense lawyer right away to try and prevent charges from getting to court.

Can evidence found during a stop be used against me later? Yes. Any legally seized evidence relevant to a felony or misdemeanor charge is admissible in court as evidence.

Why would the police release me without charges? Usually, police officers release someone if (1) further investigation is necessary, (2) if it will take some time to obtain necessary evidence (such as evidence sought through search warrants or expert analysis), or (3) if a prosecutor will decide the charges after they review the available evidence and investigation.

Do I need a lawyer if I was stopped and released without charges? Retaining a lawyer might be in your best interest if you are stopped and released without charges. The best way to know your options so that you can make an informed decision is to schedule a free consultation with a respected criminal defense attorney immediately.

Will the stop be on my permanent record? Traffic stops and arrests do not indefinitely remain on someone’s public criminal history.

What rights do I have if stopped by the police? If you are stopped by the police, you have the right to remain silent and request an attorney. You do not have the right to resist lawful commands to ensure the officer’s safety. Also, you cannot legally lie to the police. If you intentionally say something unlawful, you can be charged with felony obstructing a police investigation.

Can I be charged later based on new evidence? So long as the Statute of Limitations doesn’t pass, the government can always bring charges if they obtain evidence proving that you committed a crime.

How do I find out if there’s a pending investigation against me? It is nearly impossible to find out if there is a pending investigation without the assistance of a lawyer. Often, a person’s first notice of an ongoing investigation occurs when a detective or officer contacts them for a statement or to answer questions. There are tremendous advantages to finding out if there is a pending investigation before an attempted police interview occurs.

Should I talk to the police without a lawyer if they want to question me? Never talk to the police! Never answer police questions! Never speak with the police without a lawyer. Remember that anything you say to the police “can and will be used” against you. There is no scenario in which talking to the police helps the suspect. Even if the suspect denies they committed the crime, officers might claim they acted nervously, couldn’t maintain eye contact, were inconsistent, or answered questions deceptively. In the worst-case scenario, the officers might lie and claim they got a confession or inculpatory admission.

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Michigan Pre-Charge Investigation and Consultation

The attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have decades of experience successfully representing clients under investigation by the police. When the police have stopped and released a suspect, an investigation often occurs behind the scenes, which can have life-changing consequences. If you or a loved one has been stopped or questioned and then released by the police, and there may be an investigation, your best defense is to be proactive and get help immediately. Your best defense starts with calling us for a free consultation and confidential case evaluation.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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