Nebraska must treat criminal suspects in accordance with the rights granted by the US Constitution.
Although Nebraska law can limit detention to a time period that is shorter than the period allowed under the Constitution, it cannot extend the time period beyond constitutional limits.
How Long Can the Police Detain You After a Traffic Stop?
To make a traffic stop, the Nebraska police must have a “reasonable suspicion” that you have committed a crime (with the exception of DUI roadblocks).
Without reasonable suspicion, any detention is illegal. This means that the police cannot stop you without reasonable suspicion and then detain you while they search your car for evidence of a crime.
Even with reasonable suspicion that you have committed a certain offense, the Nebraska police cannot detain you while they search for evidence of a different crime that they have no justification for suspecting.
They cannot, for example, pull you over for a broken taillight and then detain you while they wait for a narcotics sniffing dog to arrive unless the traffic stop generated a specific reason to suspect you of a narcotics-related offense.
How Long Can the Police Detain You Without Arrest?
In Nebraska, as well as elsewhere in the United States, the police can detain you when they have a reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime.
The police can only detain you for a reasonable period while they conduct an investigation designed to lead to “probable cause.” If they find probable cause, they can arrest you. If they don’t find probable cause, they have to let you go.
If they do find probable cause, it must concern either (i) the crime that they reasonably suspected you of committing when they originally detained you or (ii) a different crime that they gained additional reasonable suspicion for while initially detaining you based on their original reasonable suspicion.
Without this much, a court must suppress any evidence that the police seize, and Nebraska cannot use it against you .
For example, suppose you were walking down the street, and the police detained you on valid reasonable suspicion of carrying a concealed firearm. They cannot then proceed to detain you for the time it takes to search a pocket in your jeans that is too small to hold a firearm, just in case you were carrying illegal drugs as well.
The situation might be different if the police smelled marijuana when they approached you about the suspected firearms violation.
How Long Can the Police Detain You Without Charge?
Once they arrest you, how long can the police detain you without charging you? The general rule is that once you are placed under arrest, the police cannot detain you without charge for more than 72 hours. Special circumstances might justify small deviations in one direction or the other.
Your Rights After Arrest
You enjoy certain rights when the police arrest you. You cannot exercise some of these rights unless you know about them:
- You have the right to be informed of your rights;
- You have the right to remain silent—you don’t have to answer police questions without an attorney present;
- If the police delay reading you your rights, Nebraska cannot use anything you say during that time you haven’t been read your rights as evidence against you;
- You have the right to know why you have been arrested or detained;
- You have the right to make a local phone call; and
- You have the right to speak to a lawyer, in private, as soon as possible.
You have other rights as well, especially later in the criminal justice process.
Tips for Detainees
Here are some tips to follow in case the police detain you:
- Say you wish to remain silent and don’t give any explanations or excuses, even if you are innocent.
- Don’t lie to the police. It is better to remain silent than to lie.
- Never consent to any searches.
- Seek a lawyer as soon as you can. You have the right to speak to a lawyer even if you are in jail.
- Ask for the officer’s name and badge number. Write it down or memorize it.
- Show your driver’s license and registration if the police pull you over on the road.
- In your car, place your hands where the police can see them at all times. Don’t reach into your glove box for your driver’s license without asking the officer for permission first.
- Ask if you are under arrest. You have the right to know.
As soon as you can, write down everything that happened during your arrest and detention.
We’re Ready to Fight for You
We know the Nebraska criminal justice system thoroughly, and we are familiar with many prosecutors and judges. Now is no time to play around—your future could be at stake!