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How Long Can I Be Held in Jail Without Being Charged?

Unlike some countries where suspects can be held indefinitely without being charged, the states in the U.S. have strict rules about when someone must be charged with a crime or else be released. That timeframe varies among the states.

In California, someone held in custody must be charged or released within 48 hours of their arrest. Weekends, court holidays, and mandatory court closure days do not count against the 48 hours.

Uncharged Individuals Left in Jail

Unfortunately, the 48-hour rule is not always followed. In October 2022, Santa Clara County reportedly settled a class-action lawsuit for keeping uncharged people in jail longer than the law allows. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 244 people kept in custody for at least 12 hours after prosecutors made their no-charge decision between April 26, 2016, and April 26, 2021.

The named plaintiff in the class action, Dylan Camarlinghi, was arrested for an alleged domestic altercation with a friend on Feb. 9, 2020. Prosecutors chose not to file charges on Feb. 11, but he was not released from San Jose jail until Feb. 14.

The extended custody period occurred after an arrest but before charges were brought so these individuals did not have access to legal counsel unless they had hired a private defense attorney. Holding the individuals in custody was not necessarily intentional but did show neglect. Once a prosecutor decided not to press charges, there was no mechanism to alert prison staff. Correctional officials had to manually look up the charging status.

$2.4M Set Aside for Those Wrongly Kept in Custody

Santa Clara County has set aside $2.4 million to compensate those wrongly held. Beneficiaries will receive $250 for each hour past 12 that they were held. That rate increases to $295 for each hour they remained in custody beyond 24 hours.

Final approval of the settlement, in which the county admitted no fault, is scheduled for Dec. 8. Claims can be filed through Sept. 4, 2023.

Situations like Santa Clara highlight the importance of making Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC your first call after an arrest. We will ensure your rights are upheld.

The First 48 Hours After an Arrest

Law enforcement typically uses the 48-hour window to ask questions. You should exercise your right to remain silent and ask to call your attorney. Depending on the circumstances, you can be released on your own recognizance or pay bail. The police construct a pre-filing investigation that the prosecutor uses to determine whether to move forward with criminal charges. A prosecutor who chooses to not file charges at that time may still do so at a later date. If the prosecutor files charges, they have the flexibility to add or change the charges as the evidence unfolds.

Protect Your Rights Immediately After an Arrest

It is never too soon to retain legal counsel if you are being investigated for a crime. If you are arrested – or think you might be – contact the respected attorneys at Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC. We will immediately go into action, fighting for all your legal rights and dissecting every aspect of your case. Our team aims to never have charges filed. If a prosecution moves forward, we bring the full force of our 100-plus years of collective experience to aggressively defend you.

If you are suspected of a crime, contact us right ASAP. Call (949) 251-0330 to schedule a consultation.