The National Lawyer’s Guild has a “pocket-sized know-your-rights booklet…designed to be a practical resource for people dealing with law enforcement. The 16-page primer advises people of their rights when confronted by FBI agents or the Department of Homeland Security. It also includes information for noncitizens and minors.
What you need to know about arrests
Before your action
Identify an emergency contact. Make sure they know your name in both English and Chinese. After an arrest, you will need to tell them which police station you are at so they can help bring you a legal representative.
Before an arrest
The police may issue warnings, requests or messages through a loudspeaker and/or by raising various coloured (yellow, red, etc.) flags. Take note of their procedure, stay calm and discuss how you want to respond with fellow activists.
During an arrest
- The police can only arrest you if there is a reasonable suspicion that you have committed or are about to commit an offence. Upon the arrest, they must hence disclose the offence that you are suspected of. During an arrest, please remember a) the officer’s collar/shoulder number, b) the reason of arrest, and c) suspected offence.
- After you arrive at the police station, all your belongings will be confiscated by the police and taken away from out of sight. So think about the consequences when bringing sensitive objects or information with you.
- After being arrested, anything that you say may become a recorded statement, even if it’s not a formal statement (given in a police car, in the waiting room, etc.).
- Any conversation or banter with the police can become a useful information for their investigation, so avoid it if possible.
- You have the right to remain silent, to not answer questions, and to not sign documents.
At the station
- If at any time you feel unwell, you have the right to request a break during the proceedings to receive treatment at the hospital. (But be careful about leaving your companions as it may leave you alone and unprotected.)
- In most cases, aside from giving your telephone number, address and HKID number, you have a right to silence, to not answer questions, and to not sign documents.
- You can ask to speak to an external contact. First, contact your emergency contact, tell them which police station you’re at and what crime you’ve been accused of. Then seek legal assistance.
- You can ask the police to provide you with a list of lawyers.
- You will receive a copy of the “Notice to Persons in Custody”, which lays out your rights while you are detained, for you to keep.
- The maximum period they can detain you for is 48 hours (and only if the case is serious or there are reasonable grounds).
- The officers can request a body search, but they cannot ask you to undress without a valid reason.
- You can ask for breaks, and for food and drinks.
Giving a statement
Aside from your name, address and HKID number, you can choose not to answer any other questions. Many people fall prey to the carrot and stick methods of the police and accidentally signed a statement that contains an admission of an offence. Beware of the following when giving a statement:
- “You can see your lawyer after you give a statement” is a lie. It is key that you meet your lawyer and be legally advised before giving a statement.
- You don’t need to speak or answer questions unless you want to. Everything you say will be recorded by the police with pen and paper, and used as evidence in court.
- You can ask to be accompanied by a lawyer during questioning
- After being questioned by the police, you will receive a copy of your statement. Before receiving a copy of this, you may refuse to answer any further questions.
- The police cannot use intimidation, inducement or other inappropriate tactics to obtain a statement from you.
When you leave you can obtain
- Bail form (only available if bail was granted, it contains the conditions of bail, information for court appearance or change of details on the bail form)
- Charge sheet (name of charge, document summary)
- Record of statement
- Detained belongings
- The police must record all seized belongings, and return them to you unless they are used as evidence
- If you are physically injured by the police, you should go to a private clinic immediately for an examination when you are allowed to leave the station after the procedure is over
“She describes it as ‘peace privilege,’ approaching the world from a stability that allows for simplifications.
There’s always a lot of denial going on when trauma interrupts our safe outlook on life. We know that people in general don’t want to see horror except in comfortable contexts (like fiction) so seeing human beings systematically torturing, starving and hurting others makes us feel vulnerable, impotent or responsible. It makes us question the comfortable assumptions of our own lives and why have we grown in a safe environment (could it have been by chance?).”
—Manuel Llorens, “‘Peace privilege’ Also Means Disgust for Someone Else’s Suffering.” Caracas Chronicles. May 3, 2019.
And if it is by chance, will the dice roll differently, for me, sometime soon? Fix space and flow across time and we all live in a Caracas, It’s just not Caracas today.
Example: gun control is trying to reduce the systemic risk of individual violence while, at the same time, increasing the systemic risk of organizational and state violence. Are people in Caracas safer when all the guns are in the hands of the colectivos, police and military? What happens when the place you make your home becomes Caracas?