Communtity Law Manual | Police powers | When the police arrest or detain you: Your rights and their duties

Being arrested or detained (held) by the police: Their powers and your rights

When the police arrest or detain you: Your rights and their duties

Crimes Act 1961, s 316; New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, s 23

Cases: [1993] 1 NZLR 528 (CA) – [1993] 3 NZLR 129 (CA) – Practice Note [2007] 3 NZLR 297

If the police arrest you, or if you’re not under arrest but the police are holding you (for example, for a search for illegal drugs or weapons), you have these rights:

  • They have to treat you with humanity and respect.
  • They have to tell you, at the time they make the arrest, the reason for it (unless this isn’t practical or the reason is obvious in the circumstances).
  • If the police have an arrest warrant, they have to show you the warrant as soon as practical after the arrest if you ask to see it.
  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • You have the right to talk to a lawyer, in private and without any unreasonable delay, and the police also have to tell you that you have this right, including that you can talk to a lawyer for free under the Police Detention Legal Assistance scheme (see the “Legal Aid” chapter for details of the PDLA scheme).
  • The police have to charge you promptly or else release you.
  • If they don’t release you they have to bring you before a court as soon as possible.

    Note: If the police breach any of those rights, that could be taken into account if you go to court to challenge the arrest as being unreasonable.

Your rights if the police charge you with a crime

New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, s 24

If the police charge you, you have the right to:

  • be told what the charge is
  • talk to a lawyer
  • have a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial court
  • be presumed to be innocent unless and until you’re proven guilty.
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