Our criminal defence solicitors explain: What happens after you're arrested?

Being arrested is a traumatic experience, but regardless of the outcome of your arrest or any subsequent court summons, you are entitled to certain rights throughout your time at the police station.

It’s worth noting that it isn’t certain that the police will take you to the police station when you are arrested. They may choose to caution you or issue you a fine there and then. They can also release you and call you back into the police station at a later date.

When you’re arrested, you may or may not be handcuffed. The police can use ‘reasonable force’ to detain you. The police must do the following at the time of your arrest:

  • Identify themselves (e.g. if they are undercover)
  • Tell you that you are being arrested
  • Tell you the crime they believe that you’ve committed
  • Explain why it’s necessary to arrest you
  • Tell you that you are now not free to leave

You will also be told: “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.”

This will be re-read to you by the custody sergeant and any police officers who later interview and question you.

Under Sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act, the police may choose to take you to a place of safety (such as a hospital) if they believe that you’re experiencing a mental health crisis.

What happens when you arrive at the police station?

When you arrive at the police station, you will be taken to see the custody sergeant. The custody sergeant is in charge of those detained at the police station.

The custody sergeant will discuss with the arresting officers why you were arrested and will explain to you what will happen next.

The custody sergeant will tell you your rights, decide whether you are vulnerable, e.g. if you’re suffering from a mental health issue or are otherwise injured, hurt and in need of medical help.

You have the following rights whilst you are held in a police station:

  • The right to free and independent legal advice
  • The right to tell someone where you are
  • The right to medical help
  • The right to read the police’s Codes of Practice
  • See a written notice of other rights, e.g. right to go to the toilet, eat and drink
  • An interpreter who can explain your notice of rights in another language

You will likely be searched, even if you were prior to your arrest. The custody officer may also ask you whether you’ve consumed alcohol or drugs in the last 24 hours. If you have, your interview may be delayed until you are declared sober enough to be questioned.

Your possessions will be held at the police station until you are released. Any evidence will also be held.

You will be able to speak to an independent solicitor at the police station in private before and after you are interviewed.

The police will then take samples and fingerprints:

  • Fingerprints
  • Photograph
  • Mouth swab (DNA)

Under 18S & vulnerable adults

The police are obliged to try and contact parents, guardians and carers if you’re under 18 or a vulnerable adult. An ‘appropriate adult’ must also be present for your interview. You may be able to see them in private too.

An appropriate adult can be:

  • Your parent, social worker, guardian or carer
  • Other family members aged 18 or over
  • A volunteer aged 18 or over
  • The National Appropriate Adult Network provides appropriate adult services when someone else is otherwise not available

Do you have a right to silence?

The right to remain silent means you do not have to prove that you did not commit the crime. However, silence can be interpreted in multiple ways and can either help or hinder your situation.

A ‘no comment’ stance during the interview should only be taken upon the advice of a solicitor.

There may be instances where a police officer is asking you the same question worded differently to cross-check your story. This may be an appropriate time to remain silent, as you have already answered the question.

Can the police take photographs, fingerprints or other samples?

The police have the right to fingerprint you, photograph you and take a DNA test. If you’ve been arrested before, they may update their existing records.

The police cannot take a blood test, urine test or dental impressions without the authority of a senior police officer.

How long can you be held at the police station for?

For most typical crimes, the police must either release or charge you after 24 hours. For serious crimes like rape or murder, they can apply for permission to hold you for longer, typically either 36 or 96 hours.

Under the Terrorism Act, you can be held without charge for up to 14 days, but there are strict guidelines and protocols to follow.

What if the police charge you with a crime?

During the interview process, the police will question you about the alleged crime and any evidence obtained. The police may quickly decide that they will be taking no further action.

If you are charged, the police will give you a ‘charge sheet’ with the details of the crime you’re being charged with. It is usually the CPS who takes the decision whether or not to charge someone and provide them with a court summons.

Many minor offences are dealt with without going to court, either at the scene of the crime or police station.

The police may otherwise release you on bail with a date you have to return to the police station, or will release you under ‘further investigation’. Being released pending further investigation means that you have not been charged, but still might be in the future.

This usually happens when the police do not have enough evidence to charge you, or the evidence needs to sent for analysis (e.g. DNA samples).

After the investigation, the police may:

  • Drop the case, you are no longer under investigation
  • Charge you and pass your case on to the Crown Prosecution Service

For more serious crimes, you can be held on bail until your court date or may appear in court the next day.

If you are charged then you will be due to appear at Magistrates Court first, even if your case will eventually be heard at the Crown Court.

How can you complain about police treatment?

Yes, there are 3 main ways you can complain about police treatment suffered before or after arrest and at your time at the police station:

What are the possible outcomes?

Certain complaints must be formally logged and can be referred to the IOPC.

There are 3 possible outcomes:

  • Local resolution
  • Local investigation
  • A direct referral to the IOPC

Local investigations have strict procedures and may result in sanctions against police officers.

More serious complaints, e.g. assault, sexual offences, trespass, corruption or discrimination must be referred to the IOPC who will investigate the matter further.

What can you expect if you complain?

Complaints will be investigated by the Professional Standards Department or the Independent Office for Police Conduct (“IOPC”).

The force/organisation involved in your complaint should promptly respond to any complaint.

They will offer an explanation of what happened. Where it is clear that protocol/guidelines were not followed, they will make an apology unless the complaint is serious enough to warrant a formal investigation.

You will be able to follow the investigation and are entitled to find out what happened and the outcome of any investigations.

If your complaint is upheld by the Professional Standards Department or the Independent Office for Police Conduct (“IOPC”), this indicates that you may be entitled to compensation.

The process for claiming compensation for police negligence is separate from the complaints procedure, but the complaint itself can be used as evidence in a claim against the police.

If you are considering taking civil action against the police to claim damages, you should also complain.

Waldrons Criminal Defence Solicitors

Waldrons Solicitors are fully equipped to assist with your criminal case.

We can prepare your evidence and represent you in court.

You should contact a solicitor as soon as you’ve been charged. This will give us the time required to properly overview your case, the details of charges and investigations and the potential sentences, punishments and other penalties that are available to the court.

You can also ask Waldrons Solicitors to advise you at the police station.

If you

Contact Waldrons solicitors

Here at Waldrons our team of expert solicitors are on hand to speak to you, get in touch today!

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Last reviewed on 11/07/23 by Glenn Cook who is a Solicitor