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Your rights on arrest - legal help and useful information   Your rights on arrest
  Legal advice and useful information

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option In the Police Station
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option Searching your home
option New Police Caution
option Wrongful arrest
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option Crim Justice Act
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option Football fans' rights
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This is a rough guide to your basic rights on arrest. If you are arrested keep calm and do not panic. Remember that you have the right to be treated fairly and with respect by the police.

When you are arrested you do not have to say anything to the police. BUT if you are later charged with a crime and you have not mentioned, when questioned, something that you later rely on in court, then this may be taken into account when deciding if you are guilty.

See our suggested response in the caution section There may be good reasons why you do not wish to say anything to the police, and you should not be intimidated into answering questions. Get a solicitor down to see you in the police station as soon as possible.


There may be times when if you give an innocent explanation for what you have done, the police may leave you alone.

  • It is wise not to discuss the case with the police until you have consulted privately with a solicitor.
  • If the police are about to arrest you or have already arrested you, there is no such thing as a 'friendly chat' to sort things out. Anything you say can later be used against you. Think before you talk.
Useful info from Police National Legal Database
On what grounds can police stop and search me?
What if I refuse to be searched by the police?
Can I have a copy of the form the police officer filled in when he searched me?
How do police have to deal with stops?
Can the police stop and search me more than once a day?



If you are stopped by the police: (if they are not in uniform then ask to see their warrant card.)
  • Ask why you have been stopped and at the end ask for a record of the search.
  • You can be stopped and searched if the police have a reasonable suspicion that you are in possession of:
  • controlled drugs
  • offensive weapon or firearms
  • carrying a sharp article
  • carrying stolen goods
  • if you are in a coach or train, going to, or you have arrived at, a sports stadium
There are other situations where you can be stopped and searched, for example: If police fear there might be serious violence in a particular area they can stop and search anyone in that area for up to 24 hours.

In these circumstances the police do not need to have a reasonable suspicion that you are carrying a weapon or committing a crime. This very wide power can be used at raves, demonstrations etc.


you run the risk of both physical injury and serious criminal charges if you physically resist a search. If it is an unlawful search you should take action afterwards by using the law.



You always have the right:

  • to be treated humanely and with respect.
  • to see the written codes governing your rights and how you are treated.
  • to speak to the custody officer (the officer who must look after your welfare).
  • to know why you have been arrested

You also have the right (but they can in rare situations be delayed):

  • to have someone notified of your arrest (not to make a phone call yourself).
  • to consult with a solicitor privately.



Do not panic. You cannot be locked up indefinitely. The police sometimes keep you isolated and waiting in the cell to 'soften you up'.

Above all else, try to keep calm. The police can only keep you for a certain period of time - normally a maximum of 24 hours (36 hours for a serious arrestable offence).

Make sure the correct time for your arrest is on the custody record.

Make sure you know why you have been arrested.

Insist on seeing a solicitor (you might have to wait, but it's always free). Ask them to be present when you are interviewed.

Do not be put off seeing a solicitor by the police. It is your right and it's free.

If you ask for anything and it is refused make sure this is written down on the custody record.


We strongly recommend that you:
  1. make "no comment" to all questions
  2. don't write a statement
  3. don't sign a statement written by the police
  4. don't sign any police book
...until you have seen a solicitor



Police can often get the wrong person in the heat of the moment where there are big crowds present, so it is important that you get witnesses to your arrest.

If you are arrested in a crowd, keep calm, and shout out your name so people can know who it is being arrested.

If you witness an arrest, try to write down the name of the arrested person and where they were arrested.

Write down the number of the arresting officer(s).

If you are on a march and the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group are present, pass on this information to them (020 8533 7116 address below).

If you are thrown out of a football ground unfairly without arrest, insist on talking to a senior officer to state your case, or go to the local station to lodge a formal complaint.

If you didn't get the arresting officers number, ask to be escorted back into the ground to identify him.

It's not uncommon for the police to quietly let you back in if they know you are serious about making a complaint.

A common trick police employ is to badger you into accepting a caution so that you can catch your last train home. Do not accept this under any circumstances if you have done nothing wrong.



  • The police can search premises with the consent of the occupier.
  • A warrant can be obtained from magistrates by the police to search premises for evidence of certain crimes.
  • The police can enter premises WITHOUT a search warrant in many situations, including:
  • following an arrest, the police are allowed to search premises the detained person occupies or has control over.
  • to capture an escaped prisoner
  • to arrest someone for an arrestable offence or certain public order offences.
  • to protect life or to stop serious damage to property.
  • other laws give police specific powers to enter premises.



You are entitled to see a copy of any search warrant.

Police can use reasonable force to gain entry

Police should give you information about their powers to search premises.

A record of the search must be kept by the police.

You or a friend should be allowed to be present during the search but this right can be refused if it is thought it might hinder investigations.

When police seize items from you or your house be sure to insist on a written list of all seized items then and there.



"You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence."

suggested reply

"I have been advised that I should answer no questions. It is not right that I should have to give a complete case for my self until charges have been made and properly explained and until there are other people around to check that questions put to me are fair and legal. I will say nothing until I am advised to do so by a fully qualified legal advisor".

IMPORTANT: This information was forwarded by a police officer, who naturally wants to remain anonymous:

"In reality, any response made following arrest or charge is worth very little PROVIDED IT IS NOT SIGNED BY THE PERSON MAKING IT. The CPS do not make any sort of a deal about responses unless they are on tape.

I would simply advise people to make no reply to any caution until it is in the interview room with a solicitor present. This would apply doubly is special warnings are used in interview.

People are very frightened to ask for the tape to be stopped before consulting the solicitor. At the end of the day, he is your only friend in the station, so use him to the full, and tell him everything.

If he is any good, he will advise you when to co-operate and when to keep schtum. I find a good response is then "On the advice of my solicitor I have no comment to make at this time."


If this is then questioned in court, the solicitor can take the blame for offering dodgy advice, and no adverse views will be drawn from the no comment response.

I don't know about other forces, but in mine we keep the tape running throughout the completion of antecedents and signing of forms to protect officers against allegations. It tends to negate a whole lot of trouble.

drink driving:

When a person is arrested for drink driving, even though they are still entitled to a solicitor, the breath test procedure cannot be delayed while this is being done.

A person who refuses to co-operate until he sees a solicitor will find himself charged with failing to provide a specimen of breath."



If you want to challenge anything the police have done then get the names and addresses of any witnesses, make a written record as soon as possible after the event.

It should be witnessed, dated and signed. If you are injured, or property is damaged, then take photographs or video recordings as soon as possible and have physical injuries medically examined.

If you have been treated unfairly then complain to a civil liberties group such as Release or contact a solicitor about possible legal action.

Emergency Help

For information and help in dealing with the police, the courts or drug problems, contact 'Release'

Advice Line :- 020 7729 9904
(10 - 6 Monday to Friday)

Emergency Helpline :- 020 7603 8654
(at all other times)

The LEGAL DEFENCE AND MONITORING GROUP can also be contacted for legal advice: B.M. HAVEN, London WC1N 3XX Tel: 020 8533 7116,

This guide is based on a booklet published by Release.

Tedious but necessary legal disclaimer: "this guide is for information purposes only and although we have done our best to ensure its accuracy, we cannot be held responsible for any errors. We always suggest getting professional legal help which can be found by contacting your local Citizens' Advice Bureau, looking through periodicals such as Yellow Pages or by contacting Release.."

More info:
option criminal justice act
option bustcard
option Legal homepage
option 'No Comment, the Defendant's Guide to Arrest' (PDF file)

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