Arrested by the police

Seizure of a motorcycle  | DNA sample | Searching mobile phones | Bail | Offences



Jack Warner as Dixon of Dock Green. PR-wise, the British police never had it so good. PC George Dixon starred in every episode of this British TV series from 1955 - 1976. He was fair, decent, honest, trustworthy, shrewd and very "human". However, this was fiction, and the reality of modern policing is very different...




Pages in this feature


Motorcyclists and the police

Caught speeding

Stopped by the police

Arrested by the police


Sections in this feature


The police are not our friends

Giving the police a false name and address

Can I refuse to stop on demand?

Can the police seize my bike?

So what is the UK maximum speeding fine?

The rule of law

Recordable and non-recordable offences

What about bail?

Do I have the right to see a solicitor?

Stop and search

What happens to my DNA sample?




Remember that the "legal information" given in this feature is neither professional nor expert. Additionally, much of what follows is mere opinion.


However, we've done the best we reasonably can to ensure that everything we've published is accurate, relevant and up-to-date. Nevertheless, we strongly suggest that you use this feature only as a starting point for whatever enquiries you need to make, and then look elsewhere for confirmation.


Experts are apt to make errors.


Amateurs too.






BEING ARRESTED IS A SERIOUS MATTER. And as bikers and motorcyclists, we tend to have more contact with the police than other groups. But because we hear so much about it, and because we see it on TV and read about it in the papers we tend to treat it as no big deal. You get arrested. You have a chat with the coppers. Then they decide they've got no lawful reason to hold you, and they release you on bail. Or you get charged and held in custody—and, okay, things get a little tricky at that point.


But from the start, getting arrested is in fact a VERY serious matter and shouldn't be taken lightly. Not at any level. Getting arrested means that you've been forcibly taken off the street. Repeat: Forcibly. You've been effectively kidnapped by the state. You've probably been handcuffed, have lost immediate control of where you're going or who you can talk to or what you can do next, and you've being whisked away to a cell in a police station where your property, shoe laces, belt and whatnot will be removed.


At the police station your fingerprints will be taken. Your mug shot will also be captured. They'll swab the inside of your mouth. And throughout it all, they'll try to persuade you that whatever they're doing is for the best.


And it is.


For them.


And for the state.


At some point you'll be told (magnanimously) that you've got rights, whereas in fact you've pretty much lost all your rights save for a few selected entitlements.


Sooner or later they'll want to interview you, and you should tell them nothing except your name, address and date of birth. Or, if you want legal representation, tell them that. Don't argue with them. Tell them you want a solicitor. Full stop.


Say nothing else.


They might suggest at this point that you're uncooperative. And that's both true and false. You're not cooperating with them. Instead you're cooperating with yourself (see our section on stopped by the police).




How long can the police hold me?


Under normal circumstances (i.e. "non-serious crimes"), the police can hold you without charge for 24 hours. But if they suspect you of murder, rape or armed robbery, etc), they can apply for a further 36 or 96 hours.


And yes, you read that correctly. Up to 96 hours—and remember that you don't have to have actually committed a serious crime to be held that long. You have only to be suspected of it.


However, if you're suspected of an offence related to terrorism, the cops can keep you in pokey for anything up to 14 days without charge.



What about bail?


If you're still a suspect, and if the police haven't got sufficient evidence to warrant a charge, they'll release you on conditional bail. As the word implies, they'll let you go with conditions—such as the requirement to be at home after the hours of darkness, or stay away from this pub, or this person, or whatever. Conditions are set because the cops think you might:


Commit another offence
Fail to turn up at court
Intimidate other witnesses
Obstruct the course of justice


Or all of the above.


You'll be instructed to return to a nominated police station at a given time or a given date (usually a week or a month away), and generally that nominated police station will be the one you were originally taken to.


If you fail to appear when requested, a warrant will be put out for your arrest and you'll be rounded up and put in the corral—unless, that is, you've got a compelling excuse; i.e. were sick, or otherwise incapacitated, or arrested by some other cops, etc.

Will I need to put money up for bail?


No. It will be on your own recognizance. In other words, they'll "trust" you. But often, you'll be bailed simply because they haven't got space in the cells or are too busy at that moment to process your case further, or for some other similar reason. But they certainly won't bail you simply because they like you. Liking you doesn't come into it. Or not liking you, for that matter. They'll bail you because it's the next line on the script, and there's always a script.


Do I have a right to see a solicitor?


Absolutely, and you should ask for one. Get your own man or woman in if you can. If not, there will be a duty solicitor. However, the police can refuse this request if they believe that talking to your brief will impact negatively on their enquiries. But they have to have pretty compelling reasons to justify this, and a senior officer will need to confirm this.


You might have to wait up to 36 hours before you get a solicitor on your case. That's the maximum. But it's 48 hours for suspected terrorism offences. The police might make you wait a long time to help "soften you up" for questioning. But usually they'll want to process matters sooner rather than later. They know that evidence has a way of vanishing, and they invariably have other constraints (pressure of work, lack of cell space, etc).


If your alleged offence is more trivial, you might not get to see a solicitor at all. Instead, the cops will get a solicitor on the phone, and you'll be put on the other end of the line. Our advice is to NEVER talk to the cops without legal representation, and possibly not even then depending on the circumstances.


And remember this; the police must tell you that you're entitled to legal advice—and they must do this BEFORE they question you.


Finally, broadly speaking a suspect has a right to make a phone call to tell someone of their detention. but this can be refused if the police feel that the call with prejudice their enquiries.
































Seized motorcycle


The cops arrested me and seized my bike; when can I get it back?


They might give your motorcycle back to you immediately if they've got no further use for it. But if they suspect it can be used as evidence against you (stolen, or used in an assault/robbery), they'll hold it until the matter comes to trial.

Your solicitor/lawyer should discuss this with the cops on your behalf. Once again, however, you should avoid talking directly to them. A word here and a word there can always be twisted against you, and that twisting doesn't have to be malicious. It might simply be that you'll say something that piques their curiosity and/or directs them at some other aspect of your life where they can march in and grab whatever evidence bolsters their preconceptions (see elsewhere in this feature for more on this).

Upon your release from custody, just collect your personal things where possible (keys, phone, cash, crash helmet, jacket, whatever), and leave as quickly as possibly.

And remember that they can hold any of your possession as evidence if they feel they can justify it.

Then talk to your solicitor and have his or her make enquiries on your behalf. If you really can't bear the thought of a solicitor getting in on the case (and many solicitors are also pretty stupid), then make your own enquiries.

Write down the names or numbers of any police officer you talk to. Write down what they tell you. Keep a record with times and dates. Just formalise everything. You might rely on this later.



Will they search through my phone?


They will if they can. They'll do this while you're sitting in the cell counting bricks. They'll make a record of it and will look for "interesting" numbers.

Supposedly, however, they first need to have a reasonable suspicion that you've been up to no good, and (more to the point), that there's a reasonable chance of finding evidence of that wrongdoing on the phone.

So if your phone was attached to the handlebars of your bike, and if you were stopped for driving dangerously, the cops can make the "reasonable" assumption that you might have filmed your antics.

Or if you're suspected of transporting drugs and/or dealing drugs, they can naturally look on the phone to see who you've been in contact with.

What it amounts to is that the police can be very creative when it comes to dreaming up reasons to poke around in your private communications and video footage, etc.

And here's another thing to bear in mind. If the rozzers have reason to search your phone and then find evidence of other wrongdoing (such as footage of the bank robbery you took part in that morning using your bike as a getaway vehicle), they can seize that evidence.




What happens to my DNA sample?


They'll probably send it away for analysis to see if they can associate you with another crime on their books.

After they release you without charge and have finished their enquiries, or after your case has been dismissed by the courts, you can apply to the chief constable to have your DNA sample destroyed.

But it's a complicated procedure. In fact, it's not clear that there is a set procedure yet for destroying DNA samples. But various better informed people suggest that the cops are reluctant to let any DNA sample go. Which is hardly surprising.

They figure that if you haven't committed a crime yet, you might later commit a crime. Or, and here's an interesting point; your brother/sister/father might commit a crime. And if they've got no DNA on file for an instant match, the police might trace them through your DNA.

That's right. A good analysis of a DNA sample will show possible related people. So your DNA profile could be a stepping stone to catching someone else.

Meanwhile, you want your sample back. But you should make it clear that you want ALL samples. They usually take two samples, after all. Ask for one and you might get one. So ask for everything they have on you, DNA-wise.

That means all records on the PNC (Police National Computer). And you might ask if any of the labs that carried out the DNA test, or were otherwise involved, have copies of your DNA in storage.

Finally get it in writing that ALL your DNA information has been destroyed. And don't expect to actually witness the destruction. So you'll have to take them at their word (or not) when they tell you that the dirty deed is done.

The same thing applies to fingerprints and mugshots. When the matter has been dealt with and you're free to go without charge or conviction, you can demand the destruction of those items.

And who knows? You might get lucky. A few people do.



Recordable & non-recordable offences


There are two types of offences that will impact on the right of the police to take DNA samples. These are recordable offences, and non-recordable offences.

Put simply, a recordable offence is any offence that the police are required to record on the PNC (Police National Computer). Such offences include everything from tampering with or stealing a motorcycle right up to murder.

Recordable offences invariably carry the risk of a prison sentence. But not always.

Meanwhile, non-recordable offences won't normally show up on the PNC—but might if they're occur together with a recordable offence. Non-recordable offences will not result in a prison sentence.

The police, take note, are not permitted to take a DNA sample if you're arrested for a non-recordable offence. Indeed, most people stopped by the police for such offences won't normally be taken to a police station.

However, the situation is constantly changing.





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