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Arrested vs. Detained: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 17, 2023
Arrested refers to being formally charged with a crime and taken into custody; detained means being held temporarily for questioning or investigation.

Key Differences

Being arrested involves a legal process where an individual is formally charged with a crime and taken into police custody. This action typically follows evidence or suspicion of a criminal act. Detention, however, does not always imply a crime; individuals can be detained for questioning or further investigation without formal charges.
An arrested person often faces immediate legal consequences and may be taken to a police station or jail. This process usually leads to formal legal proceedings. In contrast, someone detained might be held temporarily, often at the scene, for clarification or safety reasons, without progressing to arrest.
The rights of an arrested individual include formal charges and access to legal representation. Arrests are often documented and follow strict legal procedures. Detainment, on the other hand, is more flexible and may not always require legal counsel or formal charges.
Arrest usually signifies a more serious implication for the individual, potentially leading to a trial or sentencing. Detention can be a precautionary measure, used to prevent potential harm or to ascertain details before deciding on an arrest.

Comparison Chart


Formally charged and taken into custody
Temporarily held for questioning or investigation

Legal Consequences

Leads to legal proceedings, possible trial
May not lead to formal charges or legal proceedings


Potentially longer, until trial or release
Usually short-term, often at the scene

Rights Involved

Right to legal representation, formal charges
May not always require legal counsel

Implication Severity

More serious, indicating likelihood of a criminal act
Less severe, often precautionary or investigative

Arrested and Detained Definitions


Being arrested involves a law enforcement officer detaining a person under legal authority.
She was arrested at her home by local police.


Detained means being temporarily held by authorities for questioning.
He was detained at the airport for additional security checks.


Arrested implies that the individual will face legal action or a trial.
After being arrested, he awaited his court hearing.


Detained refers to a short-term hold, often for investigation or safety reasons.
The witness was detained for further questioning.


Arrested denotes the formal process of charging an individual with a criminal offense.
The suspect was arrested and charged with fraud.


Being detained does not necessarily lead to arrest or criminal charges.
She was detained during the protest but later released without charges.


Arrested refers to being legally taken into custody for a suspected crime.
He was arrested for suspected robbery last night.


Detained involves a temporary restriction of an individual's freedom for specific purposes.
The suspect was detained at the scene for questioning.


Arrested includes the process of recording the individual’s details and the alleged offense.
Following his arrest, his fingerprints were taken.


Detainment can occur in various settings, such as at borders or during police operations.
Travelers were detained for routine immigration checks.


To stop; check
A brake that automatically arrests motion.
Arrested the growth of the tumor.


To keep from proceeding; delay or retard
Our friends were detained by heavy traffic.


To keep in custody or confinement
The police detained several suspects for questioning.


(Archaic) To retain or withhold (payment or property, for example).


Simple past tense and past participle of detain


Does being arrested mean you're guilty?

No, guilt is determined through legal proceedings.

Are arrests public record?

Yes, arrests are typically documented and part of public record.

What is the usual outcome of an arrest?

It often leads to legal proceedings or a trial.

Can an arrested person request a lawyer?

Yes, they have the right to legal representation.

What legally happens when someone is arrested?

They are formally charged and taken into custody for a suspected crime.

What is the primary purpose of detaining someone?

It's for questioning or investigation, often temporarily.

How long can someone be detained?

Duration varies, but it's generally for a short period.

Can you be detained without being arrested?

Yes, detainment doesn’t always lead to an arrest.

Are detained individuals charged with a crime?

Not necessarily; detainment can be for investigation without charges.

Do detainees have rights?

Yes, but they differ from the rights of the arrested.

Can minors be arrested?

Yes, minors can be arrested, but the process often involves juvenile justice systems.

What happens after an arrest?

The individual is booked, and a court date is usually set.

Can an arrest lead to immediate imprisonment?

Not directly; imprisonment can only follow a legal trial and conviction.

Is a warrant always required for an arrest?

Not always, especially in cases of in-flagrante crimes.

Can someone be detained for no reason?

Law enforcement needs a valid reason, although it may not be immediately apparent.

What should one do if wrongfully detained?

It's advisable to comply and then seek legal assistance.

Are detained individuals fingerprinted?

Not always, unlike during an arrest where fingerprinting is common.

Do police need to read rights during an arrest?

Yes, in many jurisdictions, Miranda rights are read at the time of arrest.

Is detainment a common border procedure?

Yes, detainment for checks is common at borders.

Can detainees contact someone?

This varies, but generally, they should be allowed to contact someone for assistance.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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