For most people, being arrested by the police is one of the scariest things that can happen to them. It can be confusing and intimidating, often because they simply don’t know what to do if they are arrested. Therefore even though we all hope that this situation will never arise, it is important to at least know your rights and responsibilities in case it does happen.
If you are arrested by the police, here are some tips to help you get through the experience as painlessly as possible.
Try to find out why you are being arrested
If a police officer tells you that you are under arrest, you should ask them why you are being arrested. The police have a responsibility to tell you why you are under arrest as soon as possible. Depending on the circumstances, this might be at the time you are being arrested or it may be once you have been taken to a police station.
While this information might not be helpful at that stage, knowing the reason for your arrest will at least help you get a better understanding about why the police are arresting you and what it might mean for you later on. For example, you will probably be a lot less stressed knowing that you are being arrested for possessing a cannabis joint rather than for being involved in a large-scale international drug trafficking syndicate.
Otherwise, exercise your right to silence
Apart from making enquiries about the reason for your arrest, you should otherwise exercise your right to silence at all times. With a few exceptions, the only information you need to give to the police is your name and address.
The police may try to encourage you to participate in an interview by making promises or even threats. For example, they might promise you that they will only charge you with a lesser offence if you participate in an interview. On the other hand, they might threaten to charge you with a more serious offence if you do not cooperate. Such promises or threats are unlawful and your right to silence should be treated with respect at all times.
Depending on the nature of the allegations being made against you, you may want to voluntarily participate in an interview and to give the police all the information they ask for. In this situation, our view is that it’s better to not say anything until you have sought legal advice. Once you have received proper advice, you can then make a decision about whether you still want to participate in an interview or provide a statement.
If the police are pressuring you to provide them with information, you can simply say that you are not willing to answer any questions until you have spoken with your lawyer. Be firm but polite when saying this.
Do not argue or resist arrest
Being arrested is a stressful experience for almost everyone and this can cause people to react in different ways. Some people find themselves responding to the police aggressively or simply not cooperating with anything that they are being asked to do. This especially happens when the person feels that they are being treated unfairly.
As difficult as it might be, it is important that you do not argue or resist the police when being arrested as this will only make the situation worse. You may end up being charged with further offences or the police may even use extreme physical force against you.
If you feel that you are being treated unfairly or that the arrest is unlawful, the best thing that you can do is to do what is asked of you. However, you should take as many notes as possible (whether on paper or in your mind). Try to remember times, places you are taken to, which officers speak to you and so on. You can then give this information to your lawyer at a later time who will then be able to decide what should be done about your situation.
Seek legal advice as soon as possible
Before you are questioned by the police about serious traffic or criminal offences, you should be given the opportunity to call your lawyer to arrange for that lawyer to attend the questioning with you. The questioning should then be delayed for a period of time (usually up to 2 hours) to allow your lawyer to attend.
For less serious offences, you may not be given this opportunity. In these circumstances, you should contact your lawyer as soon as you are released from police custody. Your lawyer will obtain some details about your arrest and (if possible at the time) the allegations being made against you and will then be able to provide you with advice about your options.
Dealing with the police is a scary time for most people but with the right preparation, you can arm yourself with the information needed to navigate the process as quickly and safely as possible. Remember – there are a number of laws that protect your rights so if you are being treated unfairly or unlawfully, you will have options available to you.