News & Events

This article intends to provide you with information on your rights upon arrest if you are an adult. The procedure varies for children. Various legal instruments govern the operations of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), inclusive of but not limited to, the Police Service Act, the Police Standing Orders and the Judge’s Rules. What do these legal instruments provide for you prior to, and upon arrest?

When can an arrest be made?
A police officer can arrest a person with or without a warrant. An arrest can be made without a warrant where the following circumstances are alleged to have occurred:

  1. If the police officer has reason to believe that an assault was recently committed on another. However, the offence does not have to be committed in the presence of the police officer.
  2. If there was a breach of the peace in the presence of the police officer.
  3. If the suspect obstructed the police officer while executing his duties or attempted to escape custody.
  4. If the suspect is found in possession of anything that is believed to be stolen or an offence was committed in relation to same.
  5. If a person is found lying or loitering in a public or private place without a satisfactory reason.
  6. If the police officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence was committed or about to occur.

It is also important to note that where a warrant has been issued for a person suspected to have committed an offence, the police officer can arrest the person even though the warrant is not in the officer’s possession. However, the police officer must produce the warrant and have it shown to the person as soon as practicable after the arrest.

What must be told to the suspect upon arrest?
Upon being arrested, the suspect must be informed of the reason for the arrest. The police must also inform the suspect of the right to retain an attorney of their choice and allow the opportunity for the suspect to consult with that attorney. Additionally, Standing Order 38 requires the suspect to be informed of the entitlement to a telephone call. 

Should the suspect be interviewed in the absence of an attorney?
It is the choice of the suspect whether he/she wishes to participate in an interview without an attorney. If the suspect does not have an attorney, he/she can request a relative or friend to be present for the interview. 

Of paramount importance is the right to remain silent. Yes, you have the right to say nothing! This is known as the right against self-incrimination. Where the suspect has not been charged, before questioning that person, the police officer must administer a Rule II caution under the Judge’s Rules, that is, “you are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so but what you say may be put into writing and given in evidence.” On the other hand, if the person is charged or the police have informed the suspect that he/she will be charged for an offence, then a Rule III caution is given, that is, “Do you wish to say anything? You are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so but whatever you say will be taken down in writing and may be given in evidence.” Even though a written statement is not given to the police, any oral utterances made can be used as evidence.
A suspect can be identified by various methods including an identification (ID) parade. This is where the suspect is made to line up in a room with other persons of similar appearance, giving the witness an opportunity to identify the suspect. The persons should resemble the suspect in terms of race, colour, age, height and general appearance. The suspect should also be allowed a reasonable opportunity to have a representative present for the identification parade.

Can the police grant bail?
The answer is yes but only for summary (minor) offences which are not of a serious nature. Under Standing Order 31, only a police officer with the rank of Corporal or above can grant bail where it is impracticable to have the person brought before the Magistrates Court within 24 after being taken into custody.

What happens to your personal effects upon arrest?
All persons taken into custody will be searched upon arrest. Under the Police Standing Orders, an arresting officer is required to make a record in the Charge Book, with a description of each personal item and it ought to be verified and signed by the detained person. Upon release, all personal property must be returned to the person or handed over to any other person as directed by the detained person. 

It is important for persons to know what should happen when they are arrested, and the rights afforded to them.  

Submitted by: 
Adaphia Trancoso-Ribeiro 
Public Defender 11 
Public Defenders’ Department 
Legal Aid and Advisory Authority,
23 Stanmore Avenue, Port of Spain.
Contact: 638-5222 
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in The Trinidad Express Newspaper on Wednesday 27th September, 2023