A person suspected of having committed a criminal offence may be arrested. However, the arrest has to be carried out lawfully and respecting human rights.

If the police suspect that you have committed an offence, you may be arrested. In such situations, you may be kept for a maximum of 48 hours without special permission from a judge. After this time has passed, you must be released or you may be detained longer with the special permission of an investigative judge. 

If you already have the official status of a suspect or of an accused in an offense, you may also be arrested. This can happen if the authorities have a reason to ask the judge to detain you on remand. In such a case you may be kept for up to 24 hours before being brought to the investigative judge. 

You can read more about the exact grounds of arrest in the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Arrest deprives people of their liberty and may cause them to feel particularly helpless and vulnerable. Therefore, the police should not arrest people frivolously and without a lawful reason. 

About this Guide

This Guide will explain situations in which you may be arrested and how, the basic rights you have when arrested, where you will stay and how you must be treated, and what should happen regarding your release. It will also explain how you can complain about issues related to your arrest. However, not every restriction of your physical liberty will be considered to be an arrest. Read more below.

What is not an arrest?

It is important to note that not every restriction of your physical liberty will be considered an arrest. For example, you are not considered to have been arrested or detained every time you are in a police office. Sometimes you may be invited to help in an investigation and to answer questions, but you can freely leave when you have complied with your lawful duties to cooperate in criminal process. 

Each situation can be very different and therefore, human rights give you some criteria for how to assess whether you really are under arrest. These are:

  • the manner in which you are arrested
  • the place where you are held
  • how long you are held

example If you were brought in forcefully, put in a restricted or even isolated area which you can’t leave and which is heavily supervised by the police, it will most likely be considered to be an arrest.

The arrest may also result from a situation where you came to the police station freely and voluntarily. Therefore, it is always important to ask whether you can freely leave. 

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education