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The police think I've broken the law but they have no proof. They can't arrest me, can they?

Yes, in lots of cases they can.

If the police:

  • catch you breaking the law or
  • reasonably suspect you've broken the law or
  • reasonably suspect you're about to break the law

and it's reasonably necessary for reasons like:

  • stopping you breaking more laws
  • to find out who you are
  • seriousness of the offence
  • making sure you appear at court
  • getting or keeping evidence
  • stopping you making up evidence
  • stopping you from running away

then they can arrest you.

The police don't usually need a warrant to arrest you. It is not very difficult for the police to show that they have proper reasons to arrest you. It is probably better to assume that the police do have the power to arrest you and go with them quietly and calmly, as if you don't you can be in more trouble.

The police have arrested me. I still have rights, don't I?

Yes, you do have some rights.

  • You have the right to know that you are under arrest and for what kind of offence. The police are supposed to tell you this as soon as practicable after arrest.
  • You don't have a choice of going with the police, they can force you to go with them and may use as much force as is reasonably necessary to carry out an arrest.
  • You are breaking the law if you resist being arrested (as long as the arrest was lawful).
  • You have the right to be taken to court as soon as 'reasonably practicable'.
  • You have the right to ask the police for bail if you don't go straight to court.
  • If you've been charged with an indictable offence (a serious offence which can go to the higher courts) you have the right to contact a friend, relative or lawyer.

Can the police arrest me and keep me for questioning even though they haven't charged me or taken me to a court?

Yes, they can if they reasonably suspect you have committed an indictable offence. The police can keep you for a reasonable time to investigate or question you about the indictable offence they arrested you for. The police can keep you for up to eight hours, with questioning for no more than four hours out of those eight hours.

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

Even though you are being kept for questioning/investigation, you still have the usual right to remain silent (after giving your name, address etc) while you are there.

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

I've broken the law. Do the police have to take me back to the police station and charge me for it to go to court?

No, they don't. The police can give you a Notice to Appear, or they can mail out a complaint and summons. Both of these have a court date on them.

Sometimes the police will arrest you, let you go and then give you a Notice to Appear or send out a complaint and summons. For most offences (all except some minor offences), the police can also give you a ‘Notice To Provide Identifying Particulars' within 7 days. This Notice requires you to go to a police station within 7 days to allow a police officer to photograph and fingerprint you.  If you are concerned about complying with the notice and the offence is a very minor offence, get legal advice well before the 7 days are up, but remember that there are many very minor offences where the police can still require you to provide identifying particulars.

If you don't go to court on the date on the notice to appear/complaint and summons the court can issue a warrant for your arrest.

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Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you

  • have been arrested and/or asked to participate in a police interview, or the police want to talk to you about a serious offence
  • have been charged, received a Notice to Appear or Complaint and Summons and have to go to court
  • have missed your court date and think there might be a warrant out for your arrest.
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Where can I get legal advice

Legal Aid Queensland may provide legal advice about arrest.

If you have been charged with a serious offence or you have an urgent matter, we may suggest you apply for a grant of legal aid if you are eligible, or seek private representation, rather than waiting for a legal advice booking.

Legal Aid Queensland cannot provide you with a lawyer to attend a police interview.

The following organisations may also be able to provide you with legal advice.

Community legal centres may give free preliminary legal advice and information on some criminal law matters. Most CLCs do not provide legal representation. Check with your closest CLC whether they can assist with your matter.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor who can provide advice and representation.

Important: before seeking legal advice about a criminal charge, you should collect your QP9 from the police prosecutor at your first court date. If you were unable to collect it at your first court date, you should apply to the police/prosecutions office for your QP9. You will need to present photo identification and a written request to the police prosecutor. Contact your local police station if you are unsure where to apply.

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Who else can help?

These organisations may also be able to help with your matter. They do not provide legal advice.

Queensland Police Service Headquarters investigate complaints about police misconduct and breaches of discipline. Internal complaints process is monitored by the Crime and Misconduct Commision.

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

Queensland Courts information on Supreme court, Court of Appeal, District court, Magistrates court, Coroners court, Childrens court of Queensland, Land court.

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Disclaimer - Copyright © 1997 Legal Aid Queensland. This content is provided as an information source only and is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should seek legal advice from a lawyer. Legal Aid Queensland believes the information is accurate as at 1 July 2007 but accepts no responsibility for any errors or omissions and denies all liability for any expenses, losses, damages and costs you might incur due to the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way.

Last modified: 11 August 2015 4:19PM
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