How long can the police hold a person without charging them? In many states, the police have a 72 hour window. In California, the police are allowed 48 hours to hold/ detain a person without charges being made. After 48 hours, if no charges are filed, then the police must release this person.
In this 48 hour window, the police or detectives must work closely with prosecutors. The police cannot bring charges against the arrestee. It is the prosecutor who does this. The police and detectives must provide the prosecutor with the proper and substantial evidence that a crime has occurred and that the arrestee was involved.
If the prosecutor does not bring charges within that 48 hour window, they can always bring charges against this person later on. The 48 hours refers only to the time period that arrestee is held under the police’s watch. Yet, the prosecutor may still have a ticking clock on when they can file charges, and this is called the statute of limitations. For example, the prosecutor may have a 3 year window to file the charges. After 3 years, the can no longer press charges because the statute of limitations has run out. For some crimes, like kidnapping and murder, there is no statute of limitations, so the prosecutor can press charges even 50 years after the crime occurred.