Your rights if you’re arrested
If you are arrested for a crime, your rights are protected, and the police must follow the rules set out in the Police Act of 2003. This act explains how the police must treat you, and what rights you have.
It says, for example, that you have the right to speak with a solicitor and to inform a family member or friend that you’ve been arrested.
- You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.
- You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home.
- If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.
- You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.
- Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.
- Do stay calm and be polite.
- Do not interfere with or obstruct the police.
- Do not lie or give false documents.
- Do prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested.
- Do remember the details of the encounter.
- Do file a written complaint if you feel your rights have been violated.
If you are questioned by the Police
Stay calm - Don’t run. Don't argue, resist or obstruct the police, be polite and respectful, even if you are innocent or the police are violating your rights. Keep your hands where police can see them. Never touch a police officer.
Give your name and address if you're asked to - But remember you don't need to say anything more. (The caveat is that if the police are annoyed by your refusal to say more, they may take you to the station out of spite.) Remember, anything you say or do can be used against you later.
You do not have to consent to a search - The police may "pat down" your clothing or search if they suspect you may have a weapon or illegal drugs. You should not physically resist, but you have the right to refuse consent for any further search. If you do consent, it can affect you later in court.
Ask if you are free to leave - When the officer is finished questioning or searching you, ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, calmly and silently walk away. If you are under arrest, you have a right to know why.
Try to remember the officers' physical descriptions - Try to memorize officer force number, officer name and police vehicle license plate number. Once the police stop questioning you, write all this down as soon as you are able.
Ask bystanders to stand at a discreet distance and observe - The police are less likely to do something wrong if there are people watching. People have a right to stand at a reasonable distance and observe as long as they do not interfere. The police may consider bystanders that repeatedly asking them questions or argue with them as obstructing the police. Get the names and phone numbers of the witnesses afterward in case you need them in the future.
If you are being abused, don't resist - Once multiple officers’ start hurting you, you can't stop them by resisting, and struggling may only encourage them. In some cases, the police may continue to abuse you even if you don't struggle, but since struggling can't help you, it's best not to try.
If the police let you go and you are injured - Take photographs of the injuries as soon as possible, but make sure you seek medical attention first.
If you feel your rights have been violated - File a written complaint. Keep a copy of the complaint, and make sure a family member or close friend has a copy.
If the Police stopped your car while you are driving
Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible - Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, open the window part way and place your hands on the wheel and await further instructions from the officer. Upon request, show police your driver's license, registration and proof of insurance.
You can refuse to consent to the search of your vehicle - But if police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, guns or illegal drugs your car can be searched without your consent.
Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent - If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, sit silently or calmly leave. Even if the officer says no, you have the right to remain silent.
If the Police comes to your home
You do not have to let them - The police may enter your home for the purpose of searching it if they have a warrant. Ask the officer to allow you to inspect the search warrant. A search warrant allows police to enter the address listed on the warrant, but officers can only search for the items listed. An arrest warrant allows police to enter the home of the person listed on the warrant if they believe the person is inside. Even if officers have a warrant, you have the right to remain silent. If you choose to speak to the officers, step outside and close the door.
If you are contacted by the Police
If a Police Officer comes to your home or workplace, you do not have to answer any questions. - Tell the officer you want to speak to a lawyer first.
If you are asked to meet with the police for an interview - you have the right to say you do not want to be interviewed. If you agree to an interview, have a lawyer present. You do not have to answer any questions you feel uncomfortable answering, and can say that you will only answer questions on a specific topic.
If you are arrested
Do not resist arrest, even if you believe you are innocent. You will be arrested anyway, and then you'll have the additional charge of Resisting Arrest. Also, the police are more likely to hurt people who resist arrest.
If you are told that you are under arrest, give only the name, address, and telephone number of you, your immediate family, and your employer. This information is needed in setting bail.
You have a right to remain silent. Say only, "I want to talk to a lawyer." If the police continue to question you, do not answer.
Remember, it's in the police officers' best interest to get you to incriminate yourself. If you're arrested with somebody else, don't talk with them about the incident in the back of the police car even when the police are not in the car; many police cars now secretly make video or audio recordings of such conversations.
You have a right to make one phone call to your family, lawyer, or organization (remember the phone you use may be tapped).
Do not act defiant or talk about filing complaints. You do not want the police to retaliate against you while you're in their custody.
You will be handcuffed searched, photographed, and finger-printed.
Try to get the names and force numbers of the police who arrested you or deal with you in the police station. (This information is your right.)
If your friend is arrested
Write down the officers' names, force numbers, and car number. The police do not have to give you their force numbers unless you're the one being arrested, though. Be polite and don't threaten to file a complaint; you don't want them to arrest you too out of spite.
Write down the time, date, and place of the incident.
Get the names and phone numbers of witnesses.
If possible, photograph or videotape the incident.
Get a name of a relative to contact if the person is arrested.
Ask on what charge your friend was arrested and where (s)he is being taken.
When you’re arrested
If they suspect you’ve been involved in a crime, the police have a right to arrest you wherever you are when they find you. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on the street, in your home or at work.
What the police must do
If the police intend to arrest you, they must:
· identify themselves as the police
· tell you that you are being arrested
· tell you the suspected offence
· tell you why it is necessary to arrest you
· explain that you are not free to leave
The police can use reasonable force to arrest you if you resist or try to escape.
You will probably be handcuffed and taken to a custody office in a police station.
At the police station
Once you arrive at the police station, the custody officer must decide whether there are any legal reasons to keep you in custody. They have to release you if there aren’t any.
If you are kept in jail
If you are kept in custody, the custody officer will tell you why and tell you about your rights while you're held by the police.
The custody officer must also ensure that the rules in the Police Act (which set out how you must be treated while you are held) are not broken.
These include the right to:
· speak to a lawyer
· have someone told that you are in custody and where you are
· have regular breaks for food
· use the toilet
If you are under 17
If you are under 17, the police must find a guardian or parent to come to the station to help you.
That person will be present if the police interview you.
How long can you be held?
You cannot normally be held for more than 24 hours without being charged with a crime. However, for more serious offences, a police superintendent can extend that period to 36 hours. A court can extend it to 96 hours.
Once the police have completed their investigation and decided not to make any more enquiries, they will decide whether they have enough evidence to charge you with a crime.
If they do not have enough evidence, you will be released.
If the police decide they do have enough evidence, they may charge you with a crime.
If you’re charged
If you’re charged with a crime, it means the police are formally and legally accusing you of an offence. You will be given a charge sheet with the details of the crime.
Once you’ve been charged, you must have a hearing in a Magistrates' Court.
The police will decide, based on the charges against you and what they know about you, whether to release you on bail until that hearing or keep you in custody.
You will be released on bail unless the custody officer believes, for example that you:
· have given a false name and address
· won’t come to your court hearing
· will commit crimes while on bail
· should be held for your own protection
You are unlikely to be released on bail if you are charged with a serious offence such as murder, or if you have previous convictions for serious crimes.