Being arrested

What is arrest?

By arresting you, police can lawfully take you into custody. Usually, you must then accompany them to a police station or watch house for processing before later being sent to court or released on bail.

When and how police can arrest you

There are usually 3 steps to an arrest:

  1. The police officer states that you are under arrest (or similar words).
  2. The police officer states the reason for the arrest.
  3. You voluntarily surrender to the officer’s control or are physically subdued by the officer.

Reasons for arrest

Adult arrest

The police may arrest you if they have a warrant to do so. However, police can arrest you without a warrant if they reasonably suspect that you have committed or are committing an offence and they need to arrest you:

  • to stop you completing or repeating an offence
  • to establish your identity
  • to ensure that you come to court
  • to protect you or another person
  • to stop you running away
  • to preserve evidence, stop you from making up or destroying evidence, or stop you from interfering with witnesses
  • because you have disobeyed a police direction, or assaulted or obstructed a police officer
  • because you are breaching a domestic violence protection order.

Child arrest

A police officer can arrest a child without a warrant if they reasonably suspect that the child is committing or has committed a serious offence. They can also arrest a child for a less serious offence if needed to prevent further offences or loss of evidence, or to ensure the child appears in court.

Do police have to ‘read me my rights’?

In Queensland, police don’t have to caution you about your right to silence unless they want to question you as a suspect in a serious offence.

Usually, they must tell you that you are under arrest and why. Always ask if it is not clear and write the details down as soon as possible.

Do I have the right to remain silent?

In general, you have the right to remain silent. However, there are some questions that the police can ask and you must answer.

Read more about being questioned by police.

Resisting arrest and assaulting police

It is an offence to assault or obstruct police officers (or police dogs or police horses) when they are carrying out their duties.

The courts treat any assault, or even attempted assault, of a police officer very seriously. This could include spitting, biting, throwing bodily fluids, and shining lights or lasers. Even waving your hand or touching the officer could be considered a threat.

Avoid fighting with police—there are formal ways to complain about police behaviour.

Being injured while being arrested

Some arm and wrist locks used by police can be quite painful, and struggling against handcuffs can cause pain and injury, as can capsicum sprays and taser guns.

If you are injured by police, see a doctor to record the injuries and obtain legal advice immediately. You should also photograph any visible injuries.

Always try to get the names of witnesses to any dispute with police.

If you are in an area with closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage of your scuffle, try to get a copy of relevant footage quickly. Your lawyer may be able to help with this.

Outstanding arrest warrants

If you know that warrants have been issued for your arrest (e.g. because you breached your bail conditions and failed to attend court on a matter), get legal advice about your situation.

Courts may treat you more favourably if you surrender yourself to police voluntarily. Outside Brisbane, you may be able to surrender to the local court or police station. In Brisbane, you need to surrender yourself to the central watch house next to the Magistrates Court on Roma Street.

Go to the watch house at about 6.30am from Monday to Thursday so police can process your case before court starts each day.

You will be placed in a cell while you wait to appear in court. A Legal Aid duty lawyer provides free legal advice to people held in the cells and may be able to help you.

If you already have a lawyer, they should be able to find out when you will be taken to the court and can then appear for you.