I Got Arrested But Not Charged. Now What?
Published March 18, 2022
In the US, it’s not uncommon to get arrested but not charged. In fact, out of the more than 7 million arrests in 2020, only very few were prosecuted.
Unfortunately, your arrest record will stay even if you’ve never actually been charged. The police will have your name, the circumstances of the arrest, and other personal information on file. It may not be as serious as a conviction record but it may still affect your employment and housing opportunities.
Here’s what happens when you got arrested but not charged and what you can do about it.
Why Some Arrests Don’t Result in Charges
There are a lot of reasons why arrests don’t always result in prosecution charges. Some of the most common ones are:
1. The case was settled out of court.
A court case usually runs for months or even years. Not to mention that it can be pretty costly for both sides. That’s why, in some cases, an out-of-court settlement is the most practical way forward. Obviously, when both parties decided to settle, no charges will be filed.
2. The crime is trivial.
Statistics say that, in the US, one person is arrested every 3 seconds. With this, you can just imagine how many cases the police, prosecutors, and judges have to work with at any given time. So if the offense is too trivial and no one got hurt or nothing was damaged, they usually won’t waste time on it.
In addition, minor non-violent offenses are usually sent for mediation. This is where the victim and the offender are brought together to come up with a compromise or a solution to their problem.
3. The police couldn’t produce admissible evidence.
Obviously, a case can’t be filed without evidence of a probable crime. For instance, the prosecutor can’t prosecute you for murder if no body is found. That’s why when the police can’t produce admissible evidence for a crime, they can’t press any charges against you.
4. The victim decided not to press charges.
As mentioned, a court case can drag on for months or years. And if the offense is too trivial, the victim may decide it’s not worth all the stress of a full-blown court trial.
5. The offender agreed to testify against someone else.
If the offender didn’t play a major part in the crime, the police might convince them to become a witness instead. Being a witness, as we know, offers a certain level of immunity. So most of the time, they don’t get charged.
6. The prosecutor refused to file charges.
There are instances where the prosecutors themselves will refuse to file charges against the defendant. This usually happens when the crime is negligible and the person has no prior offenses.
What Happens If You Got Arrested But Not Charged?
As a general rule, the police can only keep you in custody for a certain amount of time if no charges are filed. The time limit, however, varies per state. But on average, this can range from 18 to 24 hours.
In Missouri and most Midwestern States, for instance, you can only be held in police custody for a maximum of 20 hours. If they can’t file a charge within that time frame, they have to let you go. Some states, however, allow you to be detained for up to 72 hours.
Bottom line is, if you got arrested but not charged, the police will have to eventually let you go. However, this doesn’t mean you’re already out of the woods.
As mentioned, your arrest record will stay even if no charges have been filed. Though, there are certain ways to get rid of it.
What Can You Do About Your Arrest Record?
In certain cases, the court may voluntarily order for the destruction of your arrest record. But in general, it will take a certain action from you before your personal information can be taken off the police records.
One of the things you can do is to request for your arrest records to be destroyed. The court will usually allow this if the prosecutor refused to file charges and a grand jury didn’t indict. Or if the charges have been dismissed before a probable cause is determined.
Alternatively, you can request for your record to be expunged. With this, your record will remain in the police database but it won’t be available to the public.
An attorney can help you put together the necessary documents to make this request and submit it to the proper channels.
(Related: What Exactly is a Prison Consultant?)
Save 90% Per Minute On Jail Calls With Us
US prisons charge lots of money per minute for long distance inmate calls. The loved ones of inmates are left to pay this bill. For a ten minute phone call you may find yourself paying over one hundred dollars. With SecurTel, you can reduce this charge to a fraction of the cost and only pay the local calling rate. Make calls from across the US or internationally for the local rate and help your family stay connected during a difficult time. Learn more about how to sign up for inmate calls here.