5 Tips To Remember If You Are Stopped By The Police
Police officers are one of the most commonly sighted civil servants in everyday life. Be it the white uniforms or blue, they can be intimidating but they’re there to help. However, not many know what to do if they’re stopped by police much less the rights accorded to them. So, here are 5 chunky tips to remember and help you get through the process. Much of this information comes from the Red Book (created by a group of lawyers, TANGKAP) which has a more comprehensive list. It can be downloaded here in Malay or English.
1. ASK FOR ID
When you are stopped by plainclothes police, ask for identification. Look around for a patrol vehicle and if there is one, ensure you take note of the number plate. Cilisos has a lighthearted article here on the different types of police and how to visually identify them.
If the officer is in uniform, take note of the police officer’s name and uniform ID as below.
2. WHAT TO SAY
Okay so you’ve been stopped by a police officer and they’re asking questions. It’s important that you remember to be polite. Not just because being an asshat is likely to get you into trouble and further prolong the scariness of being questioned, police officers are people too. At the very least, they deserve the same amount of courtesy and respect you would give to anyone else.
(Obligatory Captain Obvious statement): You are under arrest if the police say, “Yes.”, handcuff you and you’re not allowed to leave/they want to take you to the police station. Of course, if you’re not under arrest, you can just politely walk away and refuse to accompany the nice police-person to the police station.
One reason they may ask you to follow them to a police station is to get a 112 (Witness) Statement – this is if they think you may have information or knowledge about a case they’re investigating. It’s recommended you co-operate be it on the spot or making arrangements for a future date and location.
If you refuse to co-operate, the police may issue a formal order and failure to comply could result in a warrant (because y’know, not co-operating means you’ve committed an offense) signed by the Magistrate.
3. YOU’RE UNDER ARREST!
Despite your best efforts at not being an asshat, you’ve been arrested! First rule of life – don’t panic. Continue not being a total jerk asshat, remain polite and do not resist. The police have the right to use reasonable force should you attempt to resist arrest. Ask why you’re being arrested. You are legally obliged to be informed of your reason of arrest and to do otherwise is unlawful.
Once all that’s settled, the officer(s) making your arrest must immediately take you to the nearest police station. It’s important to note that you cannot be detained for more than 24 hours for investigation unless they bring you before a Magistrate and obtain a Remand Order to extend the time of your detention. Generally, remand orders cannot be more than 4 days or 7 days but the police may obtain a second remand order of 3 days or 7 days depending on the offence that’s being investigated.
The Malaysian Bar Council website has a directory list of Legal Aid Centres in different states.
4. ARRESTED & DETAINED – WHAT’S ALLOWED?
The police must allow you these rights while you’re in lock-up. If you’re questioned further, ensure you take note of the name/rank of the police officer questioning you. They cannot force you to make a 112 Statement and if you’ve been threatened, assaulted or forced, lodge a police report against the offending officer as soon as you can. A 112 Statement also cannot be used as evidence against you except if you’re being charged for offences (eg. under the Kidnapping Act, Dangerous Drugs Act, Internal Security Act etc.). Conversely, it can be used to support your defence during your trial.
If you’re brought before a Magistrate for remand, you should tell the Magistrate that you would like legal representation and to contact a lawyer/Legal Aid Centre and your family. You should also report any incidents by the police to deny you your basic rights (eg. you were beaten by an officer, denied food/clothing/water/necessary medical attention/access to a toilet etc.); if you want medical attention because you are sick; whether you’ve been detained previously, immediately before your current detention and whether any investigations have been carried out during your detention. Before the remand order is made, you can also request a shorter period with good reason. For example, “I will co-operate with the police in the investigation.”
5. BODY SEARCHES
There are 4 types of body searches that the police can carry out upon your person. They can be done if the police reasonably suspect that you have whatever they’re looking for (including evidence) regardless of your arrest status (or lack of). There are slightly different protocols for either situation. However, in both situations, it’s your right that they are conducted “in a professional manner and with decency.” and body searches upon female persons can only be carried out by female police officers.
If the police conduct a body search without arresting you, it can only be done in the presence of a police officer with an Inspector ranking or above. Do not allow the officer to place hands inside your clothing/pockets. Instead, if you’re asked to remove your belongings from bags/purses/pockets, ensure that you take them out one by one, pause and clearly say what they are each time. ie. When you take out your keys, say, “Keys.” then as you take out your phone, say, “Phone.” and so on. The police cannot force or threaten you with a strip search (make you strip naked so they can search for whatever). If they do, refuse and protest, remember the officer’s name (and uniform ID if you can) and lodge a police report at the first opportunity.
If you’re under arrest and the police wish to conduct a body search upon your person, it’s your right that they do it in private. It’s also recommended that you’re accompanied by your lawyer/legal representative during this search.
So there you have it! 5 chunky ol’ tips you should remember if you’re ever stopped by the police. Again, I fully recommend you download the Red Book for future reference. Generally, if you stick to the law and avoid douchebaggery you’re less likely to encounter any problems with the police.