Find yourself in the unfortunate position of being arrested. It may not be in your best interest to start quoting the law at the arresting officer and try to assert your knowledge of the criminal justice system. However, it is in your best interest to know some of your rights when you are arrested – there may be instances when the arrest was not carried out correctly in its procedure – such cases offer the possibility of the case being completely thrown out. Here are some important and worthwhile things to note should you get arrested – if you are a police official, these elements may be helpful to you as well.
YOUR RIGHTS IN ARREST
Firstly, always remember that arrest (and the justice system as a whole) is a two-way street – we want to arrest and keep individuals from doing unlawful things on the one hand. And on the other hand every person, regardless of the offence they are committing or have committed, still has fundamental human rights which need to be respected. In the case of an arrest, the rights you are afforded as the arrestee are:
- the right to remain silent and be told what will happen if you choose to not remain silent during arrest;
- you must be told that any information you say to or in the vicinity of the arresting officer may be used against you at a later stage in court;
- once you are detained in a police cell you must be brought to a court as soon as reasonably possible but not later than 48 hours after being arrested (unless you are arrested on a weekend or long weekend whereby the next court appearance will take place on the first day after the weekend / long weekend); and
- you may also not be forced to make a confession or admission. If you make a confession or admission, it must be made freely and voluntarily, without being coerced or forced to make such a statement. You must also be of sound and sober senses when this admission or confession is made.
YOUR RIGHTS IN BEING DETAINED
- You have the right to be informed as to why you are being detained;
- you have the right to be informed of all your rights in a language you understand;
- you must be told that you have the right to speak to an attorney if you can afford one (if you cannot afford one, the State will need to provide one);
- when you are detained, your basic human and constitutional rights of dignity must be maintained, and
- you are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The other side of this is that the State (in this case, the police officer) may physically search you (take note that you must give your consent for this to take place first and that a person of the opposite sex will conduct this search), the police also has the right to take fingerprints and photographs.
If you or a loved one has been arrested or detained, don’t hesitate to contact BBP Law’s expert criminal law department to assist you or your loved one.