This post has been contributed.
The law is in place to protect the general public and its best interests. Many of us know what to do if we witness something that seems contrary to the law: we report it to the relevant authorities. However, if you believe that you may be the individual who has come to loggerheads with the legal system, you may not be quite as aware of what is expected of you. The key to avoiding further trouble is to know exactly where you stand with the law at all times: both in terms of being a victim or a perpetrator of a crime. Here are a few key pieces of information that could help you if you ever find that you are a wanted person.
Understanding Arrest Warrants
If you believe that you may have broken a law, there may be a warrant out for your arrest. An arrest warrant essentially means that you are suspected of carrying out an offence, and a police officer is rightfully within their grounds to arrest you should they come into contact with you. They are generally issued if you are suspected of taking part in criminal activity, you have failed to appear in court when expected, or have failed to comply with pre-existing bail conditions. While arrest warrants may mean that you can be arrested, they do not necessarily mean that you will undertake jail time. If you are unsure as to whether there’s a warrant out for your arrest or not, there’s no need to worry. You can find out How to check if you have a warrant relatively easily with the use of simple, specialist online search engines. If you find that you do have a warrant, it’s time to contact your defence solicitor. It is generally best to then hand yourself over to the police rather than avoiding your inevitable arrest.
Being Familiar with the Arrest Process
Your legal rights are liable to vary depending on your location. However, if you are arrested, there’s certain procedure that will take place and a protocol that you should follow to prevent further charges being made against you. Firstly, it is important to remain calm and not panic. Lashing out, using abusive language, or resisting arrest is likely to make the series of events much more difficult and unpleasant for you. Then we have the usual statement that will be used by the officer while you are being placed under arrest: you do not have to say anything to the police, but if you are later charged with a crime, and you have not mentioned, when questioned, something that you later rely on in court, then this may be taken into account when deciding if you are guilty. It is generally best to remain quiet until you have consulted your solicitor, who you will be able to contact once you have arrived at the police station.
Knowing Your Rights
In the Street
If you are stopped by a police officer in any situation, you have the right to request to see their identification documents and their warrant card if they do attempt to arrest you. You can ask why you have been stopped and, if searched, you can request a record of the search after the process has been completed. You also always have the right to be treated humanely and with respect at all times.
In a Police Station
If you are detained in a police station, you can request to see the written codes governing your rights and how you are treated, to ensure that everything is being carried out lawfully. You can also ask to speak to the custody officer at any time. This is the individual who is endowed with the responsibility of ensuring your welfare at any given time. Again, you can request to know exactly why you have been arrested at any given time. Finally, you have the right to notify someone of your arrest and to contact a private solicitor. Do not panic, you cannot be kept in custody for an indefinite period of time.
In Your Home
Sometimes police will be given the authority to search your home. If they do not have a warrant, they will require your consent. If they do have a warrant, they can search your property with or without your consent. There are also certain situations when police can enter your property without your consent or a warrant, though these are less common. This could be to capture an escaped prisoner, searching your property following your arrest, to protect a life, or to prevent serious damage to the given property.
Remember that it is always essential that you know and understand your rights in relation to the law. So keep up to date and conduct further research if you are in any doubt when it comes to any legal situation.