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your rights on arrest - info from Release UK

For information and help in dealing with the Police, the courts or drug problems, contact:

124-128 City Road, London, EC1V 2NJ
Helpline 0845 4500 215
(open 11am-1pm and 2pm-4pm, Monday-Friday)
Tel: +44 (0)20 7324 2989
Fax: +44 (0)20 7324 2977


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.

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 rou 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.


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.

ON THE STREET 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: 1. controlled drugs
2. offensive weapon or firearms
3. carrying a sharp article
4. carrying stolen goods
5. 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 co 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. (For more info see: Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994 , Section 60 and our guide to the Criminal Justice Act


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 right and how you are treated.

* to speak to the custodr 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 soticitor 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.



The police can search premises with the consent of the occupier. A warrant can 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.

This guide ©Release UK.

More info:
Your rights on arrest
Drugs and the law
Road protest law
Legal homepage

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Special note:
This site is all about harm reduction. We realise that some people will take drugs no matter what advice they are given, so we have reproduced this guide for information purposes only. It is not medical advice. If you are being coerced into taking drugs, or are in any doubt about taking a substance, our advice is to always refuse.

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