Sussex Prisoners' Families
Sussex Prisoners' Families: 01273 499843
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What you can expect if your friend or family member has been arrested

My Family Member Has Been Arrested. What Happens Next?


This can be a confusing and worrying time. Click on the buttons below to find out what happens at each stage.

Please contact us on 01273 499843 or if you would like to talk to anyone about this.

The Process of Arrest


The police can arrest someone if they suspect they are involved in or have attempted to be involved in carrying out a criminal offence.



When they are arrested the police will caution them. This is what they will say:

“I am arresting you on suspicion of… do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence”.


What Rights do they Have?

  • A phone call to inform someone that they’ve been arrested.
  • Free legal representation
  • Medical help if they are feeling ill.
  • To read the Codes of Practice which explains what the police can and cannot do.
  • A written notice telling them about rights, including: regular breaks, meals, use of toilet. (They can ask for interpreter to explain the notice or ask for it to be in their chosen language.)

At the Station

Booking In

When they arrive at the police station, they will be searched and their valuables and other items like belts or medication will be taken and stored. They should be given back to them when they leave unless they are being kept as evidence.

Custody Sergeant

The Custody Sergeant is in charge of their care and welfare while they are in police custody. While they are being booked in, the Custody Sergeant will ask them questions about their health and wellbeing. They should tell them their rights and make the decision to allow or refuse their detention in custody after they have been interviewed.

Police Cell

After they have been booked-in and given their rights, they may be placed in a cell while they wait for the police to be ready to interview them. There is a toilet in the cell. Thet should be offered food and drink. If they have been arrested late at night, they should be allowed to sleep sufficiently before being interviewed.



If it is their first time in police custody they will have their fingerprints, photograph and DNA taken. They will always have their fingerprints and photograph taken each time they are arrested. They may also have a strip search and/or intimate search where swabs may be taken.



If they have asked for legal representation, their Solicitor will speak to the police before they speak to them. The Police will tell the Solicitor details about the suspected offence. This is called Disclosure.


Consultation with a Solicitor

Before they are interviewed, they will have the opportunity to get legal advice from either a Duty Solicitor or a Solicitor of their choice. Police interviews can be stressful, following disclosure from the police, the Solicitor will advise them on how to proceed with the police interview. They may recommend that they not answer any of the questions (no comment) or alternatively, to answer some questions or all questions.


Interview under Caution

All Police interviews will be digitally audio recorded; some may also be video recorded. The police will Caution them again at the beginning of the interview. They will ask them questions about the alleged offence. The Solicitor and the Appropriate Adult can help them with understanding the questions and making sure there are breaks if the interview is going on for a long time. After the interview is finished, the police will decide what they want to do next. They may be put back in a cell while they are waiting to find out.


Voluntary Interview

If some is asked to attend a voluntary interview at a police station, they  are not under arrest, but must be cautioned which means that what they say may be used as evidence. They are free to leave at any time unless arrested and are entitled to legal representation throughout. Refusing to attend a voluntary interview may result in being arrested, and a voluntary interview should not be considered less serious than any other type of interview as it still means they are suspected of a crime.

What if they are under 18?

If they are under 18 or a vulnerable adult, they have the right to have an Appropriate Adult with them for all procedures while they are in police custody. This can be someone they know or a professional Appropriate Adult. Their role is to safeguard their rights, explain what is happening and ensure the police are treating them fairly.  

What Decisions can be Made?

One of the following will apply:

Charged and Detained – Charged with an offence and detained in custody.

Detained for further enquiries – Detained while the Police continue their investigation.

Charged and Bailed – Charged and released for a fixed time (possibly with conditions) and a date to appear at Magistrates court or return to Police Custody.

Bailed for further enquiries – Released (possibly with conditions) for a fixed time, while Police continue their investigation.

Release Under Investigation – Released for indefinite time while Police continue their investigations.

Cautioned – A caution may be offered as an alternative to the police pursuing an alleged offence. Please note, a Caution will be shown on a DBS

Fixed Penalty Notice – A fine given for example traffic offences

No Further Action – The Police will take no further action and no record will be held for DBS purposes.