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Arrest flyer
Legal Resources Foundation (LRF)

This is a document in the Know Your Rights series

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What is an arrest?

A person is arrested when he is taken to a police station because he has committed or is suspected of having committed a crime.

An arrest is a deprivation or violation of a person's fundamental rights such as liberty of movement, association, choice, etc. It must, therefore, not be resorted to lightly.

Subject to the provisions of the Constitution, every person is entitled to the protection of the law. If any person is charged with a criminal offence, then, unless the charge is withdrawn, that case should be afforded a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial court established by law.

Who can arrest you?

  • A police officer - all policemen and policewomen have powers to arrest a person under certain circumstances.
  • Other government officials, such as judges, magistrates, prison officers, immigration officers, National Parks & Wildlife Officers and some members of the CIO also have powers to arrest people.
  • Members of the public may also arrest another person if they see him committing or trying to commit a serious offence such as rape.

When can a person be arrested?

A police officer may arrest someone with or without a warrant.

If a police officer thinks a person has committed a crime, he will go to a magistrate or justice of the peace to get permission to arrest him. This permission is a written order called a warrant.

A police officer can arrest someone without a warrant only in special circumstances, for example:

  • If he sees someone committing an offence.
  • If he has investigated a serious crime such as murder, rape, robbery, theft, or kidnapping and has good evidence to show that a certain person is the criminal, but he believes that if he applies for a warrant the person will either escape, hide some evidence, or interfere with witnesses.

How does a police officer make an arrest?

  • The officer making the arrest puts his hand on the other person's shoulder and says, "You are under arrest".
  • It may be necessary to use handcuffs or other means of controlling the person.
  • The officer is allowed to break open a door or window to get into a building or room where the suspect is believed to be. But he must first loudly demand to enter and state the reason. If no one opens for him, he may break in.
  • The officer making the arrest is allowed to search the suspect.

N.B. It is a serious offence to resist anyone who is legally arresting you; or to try to escape from being arrested.

If you think you are being wrongly arrested, do not resist; you will only put yourself in worse trouble. Go with the police officer to the police station and later you will be able to explain to the court that the arresting officer made a mistake.

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