Change would let Missouri police hold suspects twice as long without charges.

When a police officer arrests a person for any criminal offense–whether a misdemeanor or felony–the suspect can be held in jail for 24 hours while police and prosecutors decide whether the person will be charged with a crime. At the end of the 24 hours, the prosecutor must either file a charge or the person must be released.

State Sen. Jack Goodman is considering filing a bill that would increase the 24-hour detention time to 48 hours. Click for  Story: Bill would give prosecutors extra 24 hours to file charges

When I was a prosecutor someone was always trying to get this time expanded. A few years ago the time limit for holding uncharged suspects was increased from 20 hours to 24 hours. Four more hours. Not a real big deal, but it meant having to do less math, so I was for it.

The trouble is that many persons that are arrested get released at the end of 24 hours because there is no case against them or the prosecutor just wants to take a week or two to consider the evidence. This change would mean that a lot of people–who may never be convicted of anything–will be spending most of the weekend in jail.

As far as helping the police and prosecutors, this new law would better allow them to enjoy their evenings and weekends. Sometimes an officer makes an arrest near the end of his shift and he might have to stay late to put together the paperwork for the prosecutor.  If we double the time uncharged suspects could be held, the reports could be completed at a far more leisurely pace.

The truth is that this bill is unnecessary. Twenty-four hours is plenty of time to put together criminal charges without anyone working up a sweat. If police don’t have enough evidence to file charges, they ought not be arresting anyone. That is how it works and it works fine.

While this change not essential, it would help police, prosecutors and judges protect their times of rest and relaxation. I like my free time as much as the next guy, but it’s unfair to the prisoner who sits–unconvicted & uncharged–waiting for someone to read his case and decide whether charges will be filed.

6 thoughts on “Change would let Missouri police hold suspects twice as long without charges.

  1. jigmeister says:

    Can the police, in Missouri, apply to a judge for a good cause 24 hour extension? Many states do provide that latitude, say in a case where the complainant has been hospitalized and can’t make an Id, but Pc was present for the arrest.

  2. Randy England says:

    Unless a search warrant is requested, judges do not get involved until the prosecutor requests an arrest warrant.

    To make an arrest, the police need more than mere suspicion. They cannot arrest unless they have probable cause to believe the defendant has committed the crime.

    The reason the police need no more than 24 hours to file charges is NOT to allow time to gather evidence, but to write it up and send it to the prosecutor. By definition, they already have sufficient evidence to file the charges (otherwise, the arrest itself would have been illegal).

    The 24 hour grace period is purely administrative.

  3. brinstl says:

    I enjoy reading your blog Mr. England.

    Have you heard of people being held longer than the prescribed 24 hours based on pre-set municipal bonds set by municipal courts? I’ve heard it argued that the pre-set bond sheets actually serve as blanket warrants. In other words, the arrestee can be held until the next court date if they can’t post the required bond and the officer never actually applies for a warrant through the municipal prosecutor. I argue the 24 hour rule applies to ANY arrest, no matter the level. I further argue that this practice of jailing people for more than 24 hours without a formal warrant is illegal and inconsistent with state statute.

    I’d appreciate your opinion. I was simply floored when I heard this. I din’t know that people could be punished before they are convicted.

  4. cskoubis says:

    Are all arrestees placed on a 24h hold? Or is this 24 h hold suppose to serve as a time frame for the police to present evidence to prosecuting attorney as to whether he has enough cause to file formal charges. Is everyone whom is arrested placed on a 24h hold?

  5. offrdnqn says:

    Will they release you after 24 hours and still file charges?

    • Randy England says:

      Yes they may. They may take any amount of time they need to file charges, at least until the statute of limitations runs out (one year for misdemeanors, longer for felonies).

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