What to do if you get arrested, and how to deal with police

If for any reason you are arrested by the police, you are advised to get a lawyer, regardless whether you are innocent or not.

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) executive director Eric Paulsen said this is important to ensure that your rights are protected.

"The police aren't the enemy but at the same time, they aren't your friend... The best way to protect yourself is to have a lawyer," Paulsen told Malaysiakini.

Below is Paulsen's advice when dealing with police in various situations, which has been edited for brevity.

Why else is having a lawyer necessary?

If police are unable to complete its investigation within 24 hours, the investigating officer (IO) can apply to extend your detention through remand.

This is done before a magistrate. The IO may request up to three to four days remand and if you don't have a lawyer, you wouldn't be able to respond.

How can you protect yourself during interrogation?

In your witness statement, you are legally entitled to keep silent. You don't have to admit it even if you are guilty. You may tell police that you reserve the right to explain yourself in court.

If you cooperate, it will help police to investigate further. For example, if you are innocent and arrested with drugs in your car, you can say it is not yours and they belong to someone else.

Police may accept your explanation and look for the other person. If you don't cooperate, police will say you must be the only person.

Torture or coercion to force your confession is not allowed albeit some documented cases of such instances.

What about during arrest? Can you protect yourself if police are using excessive force?

It is ill-advised to fight back as it may prompt more excessive force. People do get very seriously injured and even die as a result.

What if plainclothes police officers don't identify themselves during an arrest?

In a normal situation, the police would identify themselves.

Retaliating is normally not advisable, you would get into further trouble.

If you genuinely don't know who they are and resist, you are not technically wrong. But once the arrest is over the police should be able to identify themselves.

What is reasonable force when police are making an arrest?

If the person being arrested doesn't use a weapon then the police shouldn't use a weapon.

If a suspect runs, chasing him and pouncing on him is fine. If the suspect punched the police and the police retaliate and punch back in order to subdue and make the arrest, that is reasonable.

But if he runs away and you start shooting him or run him down with a car, that is not reasonable force.

What do you do if you witness police using excessive force during an arrest?

It is a difficult situation as if you try to intervene that could amount to obstructing a public servant from discharging his functions.

It is possible for a friend or witness to later lodge a police report on what he or she had seen.

Will the police actually accept a report against one of their own?

The police will normally accept the police report, as the officer at the counter is unlikely to be related to your case.

But in instances where the officer taking your report, after noticing a serious allegation against the police, refuses to take your report, you may consult a lawyer or even refer to your MP.

This will prompt police to take the matter more seriously.

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