Your rights after being arrested
When you’re arrested, you have the right to get legal help before you say or do anything. You don’t have to make a statement, but you do have to tell the police some basic information about yourself.
You have the right to:
- talk to a lawyer in private
- not make a statement
- be told why you are being questioned, detained, or arrested
- be treated humanely
- be brought before a court or tribunal as soon as possible.
If you’re under 17, the police should tell your parents or guardians that you’ve been arrested.
Free legal help
You can get free legal help if you’ve been arrested or held for questioning.
You can ask the police to show you a list of free lawyers who you can phone. These lawyers are called Police Detention Legal Assistance (PDLA) lawyers.
You can talk to a free lawyer at any time of the day or night when:
- you've been arrested
- you're being held (detained) without being arrested, for example if you're being searched for illegal drugs or weapons
- the police are questioning you about an offence they suspect you've committed and they’ve told you that you have the right to talk to a lawyer.
This might happen at a police station, in your home, on the street or anywhere else.
Usually the lawyer will talk to you over the phone. If your case is complicated, they might come to you. Either way, you can ask to speak to them in private.
Police Detention Legal Assistance lawyers are available to anyone.
What you have to do
If you’ve been arrested, you have to tell the police your:
- date of birth
If you’re driving, you also have to tell the police who owns the vehicle and your telephone number.
You must let the police take your fingerprints and photo.
The police may take blood samples or samples from your mouth (a buccal sample) for DNA analysis if you're in custody for committing an imprisonable offence.
What happens next
After you’re arrested, you could be:
- warned and released
- summonsed to appear in court on a future date
- released on bail to appear in court
- held in custody to appear in court.
If you’re held in custody, you’ll go to court as soon as possible — usually the next working day. At that hearing you'll find out if you’re going to be released on bail or held in prison (‘on remand’) before your trial.
How to complain about the police
If you think the police have used unreasonable force, or have arrested you unlawfully, you can complain to the Independent Police Complaints Authority.