For most people, familiarity with criminal law comes from movies, television and books. But if you become personally involved in the criminal justice system due to an arrest or as a victim of crime, it is important to know exactly what the facts are. What rights do you have during an arrest? What guidelines do the police have to follow? What should you do if you suspect someone else of a crime?
FAQ: Your Rights and Being Arrested
Q: Can the police make an arrest without a warrant?
A: If the police have “probable cause” or a good reason to believe a crime has been committed, then they can arrest that person without a warrant. However, there is one exception. The police must have a warrant to arrest someone inside their house if the arrest is a nonserious offense- such as assaut.
Q: Do the police have to “read me my rights?”
A: No. But if they do not, anything said without having your rights read to you is inadmissable in court and cannot be used against you at trial. Miranda warning includes:
- You have the right to remain silent.
- Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.
- If you choose to talk to the police officer, you have the right to stop the interview at any time.
Regardless of where the interrogaion occurs, the police must give a Miranda warning if you are in custody and if they want to use your answers at trial. A Miranda warning is not required if you are not in police custody.
Q: Will my case be dismissed if I was questioned without a Miranda warning?
A: Not likely. If the police fail to give a Miranda warning, your case will not be thrown out of court. However, the the information provided to the police can not be used against you in a court of law.
Q: If I’m questioned by the police, what is the best way to remain silent?
A: There are no tricks – just do not say anything to the police. It is your right to remain silent and you can ask for an attorney at any point. However, continuing to question you after you have asserted your right to remain silent is a clear violation of Miranda.
Q: Are you required to give bodily samples if charged with a crime?
A: Yes. The Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Act 1995 sets out rules for when the Police can request DNA samples (i.e. blood, hair, or fingernail clippings) from suspects if they are being investigated for an imprisonable offense, including:
- Ill-treatment of a child
- Carrying firearms
- Male assaults female
- Receiving stolen property
- Ill-treatment of animals
Q: Is it legal to be pulled over and questioned at a roadblock?
A: Yes. The police establish roadblocks for various purposes such as “sobriety checks”, license and registration verification, possession of insurance, proof of citizenship, and seatbelt usage. As long as the police have used a neutral policy for stopping cars (i.e. stopping every car that passes), you can be pulled over and questioned if they have reason to believe that you have broken the law.
However, the police do not have the authority to search you or your vehicle without probable cause that you have, or are, committing a crime. They may ask your permission to conduct a search — which means they do not have legal grounds to force a search. Never agree to a voluntary search of your person or your vehicle, even if you truly have nothing to hide.