What happens if you’re arrested by the police? Part 1

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Created on March 01, 2018

What happens if you're arrested by the police? Part 1

The arrest 

If the police suspect that you have been involved in the commission of an offence it is possible that you will be arrested and detained at a local custody centre where you may be interviewed about the alleged offence.

In order to arrest you, the police have to be sure that an arrest is ‘necessary’.  It may be necessary to arrest someone for the purposes of a prompt and effective investigation.  For example, an arrest may be necessary so that a suspect can be interviewed without delay.   In fact there are a number of possible reasons why an arrest may be deemed necessary (for a full list, click here).  It is important that the police consider this test carefully before arresting someone, because an offence can be investigated without the need for an arrest and there are a number of consequences that flow from an arrest.

The alternative option – a voluntary attendance 

As an alternative to arrest, the police can invite you to attend an interview, either at a police station or elsewhere, on a voluntary basis.  So the need for an interview should not justify an arrest in itself.  Also, if the alleged offence took place some time ago, a number of weeks for example, the need to secure or preserve evidence may already have been lost and so the “prompt and effective” justification loses strength.


An arrest amounts to a deprivation of a person’s liberty.  In simple terms, once arrested, you are not able to leave and will be detained until the police decide to release you. There are limits on the amount of time you can be detained (generally 24 hours) but, even in the simplest of cases, this may amount to a number of hours.  The police must comply with certain rules which apply to your detention at the police station ( see PACE Code C).

Booking in

Once arrested, you will be taken to a custody centre where you will be ‘booked in’ by a Custody Sergeant or by one of their custody assistants.  The Custody Sergeant has to ensure that continued detention is lawful and they remain responsible for the care of all suspects in custody at any given time.

A Custody Record will be opened on the police computer system.  You will be asked a number of questions about your identity (name, DOB and address etc) and a series of questions about your health (to ensure that you can be properly looked after while in custody).  You will then be searched.  This will usually involve a simple pat down search, over clothing.  Even then, you will have to, briefly, remove your shoes and socks and empty your pockets.  Any items of property (such as cash, jewellery, keys etc) will be removed, ‘bagged up’ and stored securely near the custody desk.

At this stage, the Custody Sergeant may remove from the detainee any items of clothing with a draw-string, such as hooded tops or jogging bottoms.  This is because draw strings are a potential safety hazard and may be used for self harming purposes.  Replacement items of clothing will be provided for the duration of the stay in custody.  Items seized for these reasons will general be returned when you leave custody.

Part 2 of this article will follow soon.

In the meantime, if you need some advice regarding an arrest or police station interview, contact us here

Jeanette Appleton

Jeanette Appleton

Jeanette has been working as a criminal lawyer for 15 years and is an Accredited Police Station Representative. She is vastly experienced in the preparation of serious cases, such as murder and sexual offences, for trial in the Crown Court.

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