I would like to dedicate this section to my baby brother (who is six feet three inches tall and could crush my moisturised face and wreck my product-filled hair with his big, manly hands without breaking a sweat).
Once, a long time ago, he was arrested for urinating in a public place. I appreciate that being arrested midstream is a bit awkward and a difficult situation in which to react calmly and rationally. However, with all the love and respect in the world to him, my brother made a bad situation worse for himself. He gave the police a false name. He did not ask for a lawyer. He had a bit of a potty mouth and used it to request that the arresting officers go and fornicate with their respective mothers.
What should he have done instead? Simply stood there and let the police arrest him without complaining or doing anything to resist? Well, yes, actually. He should also have read this section (or I should have written it a long time ago for him), so that he had a better idea of how to react in an appropriate manner when he was arrested.
Firstly, and most importantly, if a police officer arrests you, do not struggle, fight, or abuse the officer. Please act cooperatively, politely, and respectfully. Even if you are innocent of the crime, you will certainly be guilty of resisting arrest or assaulting a police officer if you do any of these things. You will get the chance to argue your innocence shortly, I promise.
So how do you know if you are under arrest? Well, the police officer must tell you, in clear terms, that you are ‘under arrest.’ Saying stuff like ‘please accompany me to the station’ is not enough to put you under arrest, and you do not have to accompany anyone anywhere until you are under arrest. Having said that, there may be very good reasons for doing what the nice police officer asks, if it will help quickly clear up any misunderstandings.
If you have any doubts on whether you are under arrest, ask the officer politely: ‘Am I under arrest?’ They have to say ‘yes’ if you are, and ‘no’ if you are not. If they say anything kind of vague like ‘maybe’ or ‘that is for me to know and you to find out’ you are not legally under arrest, and again don’t have to go to the station with the police unless you want to.
Secondly, if you are arrested, you do not have to say anything to the police, other than:
⁃ your name (your real name, my dear brother);
⁃ your address (your current home address, or ‘no fixed address’ if you do not have a permanent address); and
⁃ your date of birth (trust me, the police will not care if you look older or younger than you appear in person).
Give this information to the police when you reach the station, or if they ask for it during your arrest or during the trip to the police station. Next, you should ask for a lawyer. And then DO NOT SAY ANYTHING ELSE. I cannot emphasise this enough. You have a right to silence, provided you gave the above details truthfully, so use it to its full advantage.
The police are legally required to allow you to speak to a lawyer if you ask for one. If you don’t ask, you won’t get one, or at least not for a while, which means you might spend longer than necessary under arrest. And while we all hate lawyers – oh, how we hate them – in this situation they are very useful, as they will keep the police on the straight and narrow and ensure that you do nothing that could make a bad situation worse.
Thirdly, keep in mind that you do not have to agree to an interview with the police, nor do you have to sign anything they put in front of you. You should only do so if your lawyer advises you to.
You have a legal requirement to give the police an imprint of your fingerprints, and they are legally allowed to take your photo. However, in all states and territories there are ways you can request that these records be destroyed if you are found innocent of the crime (or are not charged with it). I would recommend you follow up on this if you are found innocent or are released without being formally charged. I cannot think of any good reason why you would want the police to have a record of your visit to their station.
Once the nasty process of being arrested and taken to the police station is over, and you have had a chance to catch your breath, you have to play the waiting game. The police will leave you alone in a holding room for a while, so they can go away and decide whether to charge you with a crime or release you. Don’t worry, you can’t be kept at the station forever. The police have legal limits on how long they can hold you without charging you with a crime. These limits range from between four hours (in New South Wales) to eight hours (in Queensland), or to a ‘reasonable period’ in some other states and territories. Generally, this seen as being an eight-hour period, at an absolute maximum. In some circumstances, the police can apply for an extension to this period, but only for another four to eight hours at most. That means, on top of remembering all the stuff above, you also should keep your eyes on the clock and count the minutes and hours carefully.
Finally, if the police do formally charge you with a crime, you might be entitled to request bail, where someone puts up money to secure your release, in return for a promise you will front up in court to argue your case. Your lawyer will sort this for you. Otherwise, if bail is refused, the police can keep you in jail until your trial, fine you, require you to sign a good behaviour bond (which means you must act in a particular way before your trial, like not drinking or hanging out with troublemakers), or exercise a variety of other wonderfully restrictive powers. At this point, we have moved beyond the arrest part of the criminal process to the court and prosecution part, and your lawyer will be the best person to tell you what to do and what the future holds. Listen to them, please!
So, in summary, if you are arrested, just keep repeating the following four things in your head:
⁃ Stay cool.
⁃ Tell the cop my name, my address, and my date of birth.
⁃ Ask for a solicitor and follow their advice.
⁃ Remember the time.
Woah, take the first letter of all of those items and it spells STAR. You can remember the word STAR, right? Let us all repeat: follow the STAR if I am ever arrested, and things should be… not as bad as they might otherwise have been.
And good luck, public urinator.