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Being arrested

If you’re caught breaking the law, or the police reasonably suspect that you’ve either broken the law or are about to break the law, you can be arrested.

The police don’t always need a warrant for your arrest. It’s in your best interests to comply with their requests and to understand your rights when arrested. If you don’t comply, you may be charged with obstructing police.  

If you’ve been held for questioning, the police can only hold you for a maximum of 8 hours, after which they will need to apply to a magistrate or Justice of the Peace for an extension.

If you’ve been arrested and charged with an offence, the police may give you bail, or they may hold you in the watch-house. If the police won’t give you bail, they must take you to court for a bail application as soon as reasonably possible.

If you have any concerns about being arrested get legal advice.

By arresting you, police can lawfully take you into custody.

There are usually 3 steps to an arrest:

  1. The police officer states that you’re under arrest (or similar words).
  2. The police officer states the reason for the arrest.
  3. You voluntarily surrender to the officer’s control or are physically subdued by the officer.

If you’re arrested, the police will take you to the police station or watch-house for processing before taking you to court or releasing you on bail.

Can the police arrest me without a warrant?

The police can arrest you without a warrant if they reasonably suspect you’re breaking the law, have broken the law, or are about to break the law; and it is reasonably necessary:

  • to stop you from breaking more laws
  • to find out who you are
  • to make sure you appear in court
  • to get or keep evidence
  • to stop you from making up evidence
  • to stop you from harassing or interfering with a witness
  • to protect the safety of any person (including you)
  • to stop you from running away
  • because of the type of offence
  • because of the seriousness of the offence
  • to hold you for questioning.

The police don't usually need a warrant for your arrest, and it’s usually easy for them to prove that they have proper reasons to arrest you. It’s in your best interests to assume they have the power to arrest you and to go with them quietly and calmly. If you don’t, you may be in more trouble. Get legal advice.

What are my rights?

If you’ve been arrested you should be aware of the following:

  • You have the right to know that you’re under arrest and for what kind of offence. The police must tell you this at the time of the arrest.
  • You don't have a choice about going with the police—they can force you to go with them and can use reasonable force to carry out an arrest.
  • If you resist arrest you’re breaking the law (unless you can prove the arrest was unlawful)
  • You have the right to be taken to court for a bail application as soon as reasonably possible.
  • You have the right to ask the police for bail if you don't go straight to court.
  • If the police wish to question you about an indictable offence (a serious offence that can go to the higher courts) you have the right to contact a friend, relative or lawyer and the police must delay questioning for a reasonable time (usually up to 2 hours) to allow this.

Being arrested for questioning

If the police suspect you’ve committed an indictable offence they can keep you for a reasonable time to investigate or question you about the offence.

They can hold you for a period of up to 8 hours—with questioning for no more than 4 of those 8 hours.

The police can apply to a magistrate or a justice of the peace to keep you for a further period. Only a magistrate can extend the questioning for more than 12 hours.

While you’re being held, you still have the right to remain silent (after giving your name, address etc).

If at the end of the interview or investigation the police don't think they’ve got enough evidence to charge you they should let you go.

Being arrested and charged with an offence

If you’re charged with an offence, the police may give you bail and release you until your court date or they may hold you in the watch-house. If the police don’t give you bail, they must take you to court as soon as reasonably possible.  Once you are taken to court, you can apply to the court for bail.

You don’t have to be arrested to be charged with an offence.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you:

  • have been arrested, or have been asked to participate in a police interview, or they want to talk to you about a serious offence
  • have been charged with an offence and have to go to court
  • have missed your court date and think there might be a warrant for your arrest.

How to get legal advice

We may provide legal advice about being arrested. We can’t provide a lawyer to attend a police interview with you.

If you’ve been charged with a serious offence you can apply for legal aid (if you’re eligible), or find a private lawyer rather than waiting for a legal advice booking.

The following organisations may be able to give you legal advice.

Community legal centres may give free preliminary legal advice and information on some criminal law matters. Most centres don’t provide legal representation. Contact them to find out if they can help.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for legal advice and representation.

Important:
If you’re charged with an offence, you should ask police prosecutions for a copy of your Queensland Police form 9 (QP9) — this is a written summary of the police version of why you were charged and what happened. You should get your QP9 before getting legal advice. You can get your QP9 from the police prosecutor on your first court date (the duty lawyer may be able to help you). If you can’t collect it on your first court date you’ll need to apply to police prosecutions for a copy. You’ll need to make a written request and show photo ID.

Who else can help?

These organisations may be able to help. They don’t provide legal advice.

Queensland Police Service Headquarters investigates complaints about police misconduct and breaches of discipline. The internal complaints process is monitored by the Crime and Corruption Commission.

Crime and Corruption Commission investigates complaints about official misconduct, even where the original complaint has been made to Queensland Police. The organisation monitors the police internal complaints process and can take over investigations if necessary, but does not handle complaints about police misconduct directly.

Queensland Courts provides information about the:

  • Supreme Court
  • Court of Appeal
  • District Court
  • Magistrates Court
  • Coroners Court
  • Childrens Court of Queensland
  • Land Court.
Related links and information
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