Arrested: What are your rights as accused?

arrested what is my rights

Arrested: What are your rights as accused?

Being subjected to an arrest can be a very traumatic experience for a “first timer” That being said, understanding your constitutional rights will assist you when confronted which this situation.

I've been arrested, what happens next, and what rights do I have?

Fundamental human rights require that the welfare and safety of others be taken into consideration at all times, regardless of the circumstances. 

As far as detainment by a police officer goes, this is also true. 

When someone is arrested or detained in custody, the police officer’s guiding principle should always be to treat them with respect.

In the event of an arrest, unfortunately, the majority of people are unaware of their rights under the law.

In this article, we’ll go over what to expect during an arrest and custody process and what your constitutional rights are.

In the event of an arrest, what can I expect to occur?

It’s important to remember that an arrest can be made with or without a warrant of arrest.

At the time of your arrest, you should be given an explanation of why you were arrested. In the event that you are detained on a warrant, you are entitled to a copy of the warrant or to see a copy thereof.

The primary goal of an arrest is to guarantee that the suspect is brought before a court to be charged, tried, and convicted or acquitted. However, the arrest may also be used as part of an investigation in order to obtain evidence that is required.

You will be led to the police vehicle following your arrest.

Take Note:

If the purpose of the arrest is to punish, inconvenience, or rebuke you without the intention of taking you before a court, the arrest is unlawful, and you may be able to file a lawsuit against the officer for wrongful arrest.

You should be aware of the following during your incarceration at the police station

Upon arrival at the police station, you will be taken to a detention cell. You should anticipate being detained in a police cell for a maximum of 48 hours. When a suspect has been arrested, police officers are required to transport them to court within 48 hours of their arrest. If the arrest occurs on a weekend or a public holiday, the police must take you to court on the first day the court sits again the following week.

One of the most important points to remember is that your lawyer has the right to meet with you while you are in detention to discuss your case before filing a bail application. In the ensuing panic that follows an arrest, it is common for the detainee to lose sight of this.

The police are required by law to inform you of your legal rights, including your right to be released on bail if you are detained. To apply for bail, you must also be given notice of the date and time of the next court hearing.

In the event that you have personal belongings with you, they are yours to keep, unless they are illegal and have a connection to the crime. It is possible to leave your things with the police and sign for them, or you can request that your belongings be picked up by a trustworthy individual. Before signing for your items, this person must furnish the police with documentary confirmation of his or her identity.

In the event that I'm detained, and during custody, what are my legal rights?

You have the right to:

  • consult with your lawyer. The police officer must allow you to call your lawyer;
  • remain dressed in your own clothes;
  • should it be necessary, to undergo a medical examination;
  • to receive the meal rations that have been prescribed;
  • as long as you give police your full name and address, you are free to remain silent;
  • have family members pay a visit in accordance with the directions of the police station
  • your loved ones bringing your personal belongings and food to the detention facility. The latter can be examined by the police officer.

Take Note:

  • Those under the age of 14 years old, and those between the ages of 14 and 18, are not allowed to be detained for more than 24 hours before being sent to court. Arresting an under-18-year-old in a police cell or lockup is generally not permitted in the interest of justice, except when that youngster cannot be placed with his or her parent, guardian, institution, or other place of safety. An individual who is under the age of 18 is entitled to be held apart from those who are over the age of 18.
  • Following your arrest, you may submit an application to the South African Police Service to be released on bail or to be issued with a summons to appear in court. The amount of money that must be paid as bail will be determined by a police official.
  • It is important to note that the police can only give ‘police bail’ in the case of less serious offenses. The police officer does not have the authority to impose any special restrictions on your release on bail, and he or she will not do so.

Written by Heinrich Gonzales, Director of HFG Attorneys Inc.


The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

HFG Attorneys in Paarl, Western Cape, specialises in four main areas, including family law, general litigation, criminal defence and firearm law.


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