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An arrest involves the apprehension of a person who is being prosecuted, with the aim of bringing that person before the court. Apprehension is not a form of punishment. You must be treated with respect and dignity when being arrested.

The police officer must give you the reasons why you are being arrested, after which you will be placed in a detention cell at the police station. The police must inform about your rights, including your right to be released on bail.

Any person who is arrested has the right to remain silent and not to implicate himself or herself in a crime. It is not recommended that you make a statement to the SAPS on your own; consult an attorney in this regard. After you have been apprehended, a document must be handed to you explaining your rights. You are free to sign this document, but you are advised not to sign any other documents.

If you have any personal effects with you, they remain your property unless they have a bearing on the crime. Your possessions can be left with the police and you must sign for them or you can ask a person you trust to take your possessions, but the person must identify himself or herself and also sign with the police for them.

i) Following your arrest the SAPS has the power to do the following:

  • Take your hand-, palm- and footprints;
  • hold an identity parade (your must always insist upon having your attorney present);
  • examine you to determine whether your body has any marks or other identifying features;
  • take a photo of you;
  • take you to a doctor in order to draw your blood.

There are laws stating what the police may do if they search or arrest somebody. There are also internal regulations prescribing the action of the police. Police members disregarding these laws and regulations will be disciplined.

The police may only use as much violence as is required to prevent somebody who is resisting arrest from escaping escape. The police may not torture you.

The police are authorised to search people, property and even buildings while bearing your right to privacy in mind. Searches make it possible for the police to ensure a safe and protected environment for all of us.

They may search without a warrant:
  • at a road block;
  • if they suspect that you have illegal firearms, drugs or liquor; and
  • it is a matter of the greatest urgency and they have reason to suspect that getting a warrant will give you time to hide the evidence.

A woman may not be body-searched by a man; equally, a man may not be body-searched by a woman.

ii) Your rights on being arrested:

You will be detained in the police cell for 48 hours at most. The moment you are arrested, you have the right to:
  • talk to an attorney – the police officer must allow you to call your attorney and to talk to him;
  • remain silent, unless you have to give your name and address to the police;
  • be examined by a doctor;
  • wear your own clothes; and
  • receive the prescribed ration of food.
While you are being detained, you have the right to:
  • receive visits by family in accordance with the instructions of the charge office; and
  • have friends and family bring you clothes and food to the detention cells. The clothes and food may be examined by the police officer.
  • The police must take you to court within 48 hours of your being arrested, unless it is a weekend or a public holiday, and in such a case they must take you to court before 16:00 on the first day the court sits again.

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