Voluntary encounters, temporary detentions, and arrests

Voluntary encounters, temporary detentions, and arrests

Contacts between citizens and law enforcement generally fall into one of three categories: 1) voluntary encounters, 2) temporary detentions; and, 3) arrests. Whether you have been approached on suspicion of DWI, DUI, a drug charge, or some other criminal offense, your criminal defense attorney will want to investigate the nature of your encounter with the police to see if the police acted appropriately.

As the name implies, a voluntary encounter is simply a voluntary meeting with the police where a suspect is free to leave. The police do not need any sort of proof to conduct a voluntary encounter. However, in many cases, a voluntary encounter will turn into something else by a police officer’s show of authority that could make a suspect believe he is not free to leave. For example, if the Houston police are investigating a drug transaction, and approach an individual on the street for a friendly chat about what he may have seen, that will usually constitute a voluntary encounter. However, when the suspect attempts to leave and the police officer orders him to leave, then it ceases to become voluntary.

When a voluntary encounter becomes non-consensual, it can turn into a temporary detention.  To justify a temporary detention, a police officer needs reasonable suspicion to believe that an offense has been committed and that the person detained was involved. Reasonable suspicion can exist when an officer sees evidence that someone – like a driver in a DUI, DWI or drug case – is committing an offense but needs to observe the suspect more closely to verify his suspicion. The law allows the officer an opportunity to briefly detain a suspect for this purpose as long as he has reasonable suspicion. Far to often, when investigating DWI, DUI, drug crimes or other criminal offenses, police act on no more than a hunch.

If an officer chooses to arrest someone, he needs to meet the standard of probable cause. Although the definition of probable cause varies, it is essentially constitutes enough evidence to convince a reasonable person that a crime has been committed. The information has to be trustworthy. Far too often, police in DWI, DUI, drug cases, sexual assault cases, or other kinds of criminal offenses act with less than probable cause, and that can cause evidence to be excluded from court. This can often lead to a dismissal of a case.

Search and seizure law can be very complicated and an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney can help determine if your rights were violated by law enforcement. Far too often, law enforcement officers exceed the scope of what they are Constitutionally permitted to do, and an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer can use that to your advantage in a DUI, DWI, drug case, or any criminal offense. If you are arrested for DUI, DWI, a drug offense, a sexual offense or any criminal offense, the lawyers of the Houston, Texas office of Scheiner Law Group are highly experienced with search and seizure law and can help protect your rights.