You will be taken to the police station if you get arrested, held in custody in a cell, and be questioned. You may also be released or charged with a crime.

Generally, you will be searched during an arrest — either at the scene, jail, or both — any contraband or evidence they find will be seized. Your photographs and fingerprints will be taken and kept as a record of the arrest. Your arrest records may be published online and or in newspapers.

The law on being arrested is different in Scotland compared with England. It is important that you know and understand your rights.

Your rights while in police detention

During custody, the police officer will search you and will keep your possessions while you are in your cell.

William Morrison from Criminal Solicitors Sanders Witherspoon explains what your rights are when arrested:

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

  • Get free legal advice;
  • Inform someone about your whereabouts;
  • Access to medical aid if you’re unwell;
  • Be informed of the police’s Codes of Practice; and
  • Be provided with a written notice in your language that speaks about your rights such as:
    • Regular breaks for food;
    • Toilet use; or
    • Access to an interpreter who will explain the notice.

Children under 18 and vulnerable adults

If you are under 18 or a vulnerable adult, the police should contact either your parent, guardian, or carer. An “appropriate adult” must come to the station to help you out and to be present during questioning and searching. An appropriate adult is someone who is:

  • Your parent, guardian, or carer;
  • A social worker;
  • A relative or a friend aged 18+; and
  • A volunteer aged 18+.

Appropriate adult services in England and Wales is provided by the National Appropriate Adult Network.

Your rights when being questioned

Questions posed by the police will be recorded, including matters about the crime you’re suspected of. You have the option to answer their questions but note that there will be consequences, which the police must explain this by reading the police caution out loud:

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.

Generally, you have the right to:

  • Tell someone that you were arrested (parent, guardian, or carer);
  • Have a solicitor you can talk to in private;
  • Access to medical aid if you’re unwell;
  • Be informed of the police’s Codes of Practice; and
  • An appropriate adult as a company at the police station and be able to talk to them in private whenever you want to, if you are below 18 years old.

Do not use force

You do not have the right to resist arrest during this unfortunate situation, even if the arrest is illegal. If you use force, you can be charged with resisting arrest or battery on an officer, among others. If you are arrested without probable cause, make sure to fight in court.

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