Being arrested is a stressful experience and therefore it is important to know your rights and what steps you can take to protect yourself.

Section 35 of the Constitution sets out the various rights that a accused person has when he or she is arrested.

First of all, you have the right to legal representation and the right to remain silent. As such no member of the South African Police Service can force you to make any statement and it is advised that you seek the aid of an attorney before making any statement to the police.

Further it is important to know that you have the right to be brought before a court with 48 hours of your arrest. The 48 hour time period can, however, be extended in cases where the courts are not open, such as weekends or public holidays.

When you are arrested, the arresting officer is obliged to inform you of the charges and your right to remain silent. Thereafter you will be charged, which includes noting your personal details and taking your fingerprints.

Once you have been formally charged and depending on the offence, you can apply for bail.

A bail application can either be made at the police station or in a court, depending on the nature of the offence. If you qualify for what is called police bail, you will be released after you paid the bail amount and will be warned to appear in court on a specific date.

The details of your court appearance will be given to you on a bail receipt, which must be safeguarded until the criminal trial is concluded.

In conclusion, if you are arrested it is important to stay calm and refrain from being difficult with the arresting officers. You cannot be forced to make any statements and if you choose to do so, it is advised that you first seek legal advice.

For assistance on these matters and any other legal matters please contact us on 011 897 1900, 076 777 1920 or

Article contributed by Tiaan Vermeulen of Tuckers attorneys.