As we approach the festive season, police will likely be cracking down on crime.
And as a result, there’ll be an increase in arrests.
Should you find yourself arrested, it’s important to know all detained people have the following rights in terms of the law
- The arresting officer is obligated to inform you, in a language you understand, what it is you are being arrested for. If the police are arresting you on the basis of a warrant, then you can request a copy of that warrant.
The Criminal Procedure Act provides strict guidelines regarding when a person can be detained, which is that the police may arrest on the basis of a warrant or if the officer has witnessed a person committing a crime or police have reason to believe that a person is involved in committing a crime
- You have the right to remain silent. Our law states that all accused are innocent until proven guilty. On this basis, you have no obligation to provide police with information.
- You have the right to appoint an attorney. Should you not be able to afford an attorney, you will be given an opportunity in court to apply for Legal Aid.
- You have the right to be brought before court within 48 hours of being arrested. Legally, you can’t be detained for longer than two days. Unfortunately, this two-day limit refers to court days, meaning should you be arrested on a Friday, police can detain you for the weekend and you will only appear in court on Monday.
- You have the right to be held in conditions that are consistent with human dignity.
While detained by police, awaiting bail or your court appearance, you are entitled to accommodation, food and medical treatment that meets basic standards.
- You have a right to a fair and public trial before a court of law.
Within 48 hours of being arrested, you have the right to appear before an impartial court and be tried in a language you understand.
- You have a right to apply for bail. There are certain charges, that in terms of the law, bail can be granted by the police. More serious crimes can only have a judge grant you bail.
Note that you have the right to apply for bail and not a right to be granted bail.
Should police or the court be of the view that you are a danger to the public or are a flight risk, then you can continue to be detained.
It should be noted that police carry out arrests on the basis of facts before them, and it’s not their job to weigh evidence or determine innocence of the arrested person.
In terms of our law, it is the National Prosecuting Authority that determines whether the charges against the arrested person are valid and if they should be prosecuted.
Should the rights explained above be infringed upon, you could possibly have a case against the State for wrongful arrest and detainment, this means suing for compensation for the following:
- Loss of income while in police custody.
- Past and future medical/hospital expenses.
- General damages for pain and suffering.
- Loss of support if you’re the dependent of the accused and this person dies during arrest or in custody.
In order to determine whether you have a valid case against the State, it is advisable to appoint an attorney.
This as there are specific requirements for civil action against the State.