If someone was detained and questioned by police but never actually arrested, how long do the police have to make a decision whether or not to file charges?

UPDATED: Jun 2, 2011

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If someone was detained and questioned by police but never actually arrested, how long do the police have to make a decision whether or not to file charges?

Someone I know was brought in by police for distributing a narcotic but no drugs were found, only money. During the incident they said they had a search warrant but it was never physically seen. Also, he said he was never read his rights but it could be possible they did and he just was caught in the moment. This was about 2 months ago in PA and still no word from the police. Bail was never set and he was never put in jail. What can he expect?

Asked on June 2, 2011 under Criminal Law, Pennsylvania


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The fact is that a person can be prosecuted for a crime as long as they are charged within the applicable statute of limitations (this is the time period in which charges can legally be brought; typically several years depending on the offense). Since this only happened within the last 2 months, the prosecutor's office will need time to investigate before making its decision as to whether or not to proceed with formal charges.

As for the warrant, it need not be shown at the time of the search. But it must be produced later when asked for it.

If someone is arrested they only have to be read their rights if they are questioned after they are placed in custody. If they aren't questioned after their arrest no Miranda warning need be given (asking questions such as name, address, etc is OK if it is part of the booking process).

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