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I'm Arrested!

I’m arrested!

The police arrest people as a part of the criminal justice system and temporarily take away their liberty – the reason for arresting people who are suspected of committing a crime is to help the investigation process, and also to prevent further possible crimes from happening.

This section tells you of your rights if you’re arrested by the police.


Have I been arrested?

If the police tell you that you’re ‘under arrest’ or handcuff you, then you have been arrested.
If you’re not sure, ask the police officer you’re with whether you have been arrested, they must tell you if you are. If you’re not arrested, you have no obligation to go with the police unless you’re a young person in an unsafe area/situation.

I’ve been arrested, what happens if I try to run away?

If you’ve been arrested, you must go quietly with the police, even if you think you’ve done nothing wrong. You can get in more trouble if you cause a scene.
If you struggle or run away after being arrested, you can be charged with ‘obstructing a police officer’ or ‘resisting arrest’ or ‘escaping from lawful custody’.

You should contact a lawyer as soon as possible if you’ve been arrested. If you don’t have a lawyer, you can contact a free lawyer on the police lawyer list (PDLA list) before making a statement.
Remember you need to tell them your name, date of birth and address, but beyond that, you have the right to remain silent.

If you haven’t done anything, you will have a chance to prove it in court.

When can I be arrested?

If you’re 18 or over, the police can arrest you without a warrant if they have good cause to suspect that you have either “breached the peace” or committed an offence punishable by imprisonment.

If you’re under 18, the same applies, but the police also need to be satisfied that the arrest is necessary to:

  • stop you committing further offences; or
  • get you to court; or
  • stop you from interfering with a witness or evidence.

The police can also arrest you at any time if they have a warrant for you.

How much force can the police use when they’re arresting me?

Police can use reasonable force to overcome the force you are using to resist their arrest, but they should use the least amount of force required to arrest you. They can also use reasonable force to prevent you from running away.

If unreasonable force is used, you should tell your lawyer if you have been charged with the offence. You can also make a complaint about the police.

Can the police take my photo and prints?

If the police have arrested you and taken you into custody, for example, in a paddy wagon or in the cells, then they can also take your photo and prints. These could be fingerprints, footprints or palm-prints.

The Police are also allowed to take your prints and photograph if:

  • you consent, or
  • they have a court order, or
  • they intend to charge you with a crime that you could be put in prison for.

If you’re between 10 – 13 years, written approval must be given by the Youth Aid officer first.

Can the police take my prints and photos if I don’t cooperate?

A police officer can use reasonable force to take your identifying particulars (photo and prints) if:

  • You are cautioned and in lawful custody for committing a crime; or
  • If they suspect you are committing an offence and intend to take you to court.

The police can take your identifying particulars at any police station, or other place being used for police purposes.  They can detain you to take your identifying particulars, but only for a reasonable amount of time.

Remember if you don’t cooperate, that could be seen as ‘resisting police’ which is a crime.

The police have my prints, but I was not convicted and found guilty, what happens to my photo and prints?

The police must destroy your identifying particulars within a reasonable time if they decide not to take you to Court or if you are later acquitted (found not guilty).  However, the police can still keep your particulars if you are offered diversion, dealt with by police warning, had the charge withdrawn, or discharged.

What is the Right to Silence?  

When arrested and suspected of committing a crime, the police will want you to make a statement.
Remember besides your name, date of birth and address, you have a right to remain silent, which means you do not have to say anything further or make a statement if you choose not to. You will have to decide whether it is in your best interests to make a statement or not in the circumstances. Sometimes, it may be better to make a statement if you have a defence.
If you’re not sure what to do, it is best to call your lawyer or a free lawyer on the Police Lawyers List of the day. Remember making a false statement is a serious offence.

What is my right to a lawyer?

If you have been arrested, detained, or charged, you have the right to talk to a lawyer. If you don’t have a lawyer, tell the police you would like to speak to a lawyer on the Police Detention Legal Assistance (PDLA) list.  A lawyer on this list can give you free legal advice while you’re making a statement.

If you have been charged with an offence, you may be able to access legal aid if you need it and you qualify for legal aid.

What rights do I have when I’m arrested or detained?

Under the Bill of Rights Act, you have the right to:

  • Be informed of the reasons for the arrest;
  • A lawyer without delay;
  • Be charged promptly or released;
  • Be brought before a Court;
  • Remain Silent;
  • Be treated with humanity and respect;
  • Not be arbitrarily arrested or detained without good reason.
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