Basic Rights On Arrest

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 at all times by the police.

To arrest you the police need reasonable grounds to suspect you’re involved in a crime for which your arrest is necessary.

The police have powers to arrest you anywhere and at any time, including on the street, at home or at work.

The police arrest procedure

If you’re arrested the police must:

  • identify themselves as the police
  • tell you that you’re being arrested
  • tell you what crime they think you’ve committed
  • explain why it’s necessary to arrest you
  • explain to you that you’re not free to leave

If you’re under 18 the police should only arrest you at school if it’s unavoidable, and they must inform your head teacher.

The police must also contact your parents, guardian or carer as soon as possible after your arrival at the police station.

Police powers to use reasonable force

If you try to escape or become violent, the police can use ‘reasonable force’, for example hold you down so you cannot run off.
You can also be handcuffed.
The police have powers to search you when you’re arrested.

When you're arrested

If you’re arrested, you’ll usually be taken to a police station, held in custody in a cell and then questioned.

After you’ve been taken to a police station, you may be released or charged with a crime.

Your rights in custody

The custody officer at the police station must explain your rights. You have the right to:

  • get free legal advice
  • tell someone where you are
  • have medical help if you’re feeling ill
  • see the rules the police must follow (‘Codes of Practice’)
  • see a written notice telling you about your rights, e.g. regular breaks for food and to use the toilet (you can ask for a (notice in your language) or an interpreter to explain the notice

You’ll be searched and your possessions will be kept by the police custody officer while you’re in the cell.

Young people under 18 and vulnerable adults

The police must try to contact your parent, guardian or carer if you’re under 18 or a vulnerable adult.

They must also find an ‘appropriate adult’ to come to the station to help you and be present during questioning and searching. An appropriate adult can be:

  • your parent, guardian or carer
  • a social worker
  • another family member or friend aged 18 or over
  • a volunteer aged 18 or over

The National Appropriate Adult Network provides appropriate adult services in England and Wales.

Your rights when being questioned

The police may question you about the crime you’re suspected of - this will be recorded.

You don’t have to answer the questions but there could be consequences if you don’t. The police must explain this to you by reading you the police caution:

“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.


If you are arrested keep calm and do not panic.


that you have the right to be treated fairly and with respect at all times by the police.


  • Do not 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.
  • Do not agree to be interviewed without a solicitor present
  • You have the right to give a “NO COMMENT” interview.

If you have been arrested:

The police have the right to search –

  • your home, or
  • the place you were at the time of your arrest, or immediately before your arrest
  • You have to give the police your name and address.

You will also be asked for your date of birth - you don’t have to give it, but it may delay your release as it is used to run a check on the police national computer.

The police have the right to take your fingerprints, photo and non-intimate body samples (a saliva swab, to record your DNA). These will be kept on file, even if you are not charged.


You always have the right:

  • to have someone notified of your arrest (not to make a phone call yourself).
  • to consult with a solicitor of your choice privately
    • You do not have to pay
    • You do not have to use the duty solicitor
    • You do not have to use the solicitor suggested by the police

Useful links