NSW Police Arrest and Detention

Arrest and Detention: A Guide to Encounters with the NSW Police

Whether you’re a New South Wales (NSW) resident or just visiting, it’s vital to understand your rights and responsibilities if you’re ever arrested or detained by the police. This article aims to explain the difference between being arrested and detained, outline your rights in both situations and provide a clear picture of what to expect during the process.

Understanding the Difference Between Being Arrested and Detained

Being detained and being arrested, while similar, have distinct legal meanings.

Detention typically involves a temporary halt by police, such as a traffic stop or being held briefly for questioning. For example, you might be detained if the police have reason to suspect you’ve committed a crime, and they need to secure the scene or verify your identity.

Arrest is more serious and involves being taken into police custody, usually because the police believe they have enough evidence that you have committed a crime. An arrest typically leads to charges and a court appearance.

Your Rights During Arrest or Detention

Whether detained or arrested, you have certain rights to ensure fair treatment.

Right to Silence: In most situations, you’re not required to answer any questions beyond providing your name and address.

Right to Legal Representation: You can consult with a lawyer. If arrested, before any formal police questioning begins, you can state your wish to speak to a lawyer.

Right to Be Treated Decently: You should not be treated cruelly or inhumanely, regardless of the accusations against you.

What to Expect During the Process

Let’s go through an example of each scenario to highlight the process:


Suppose you’re walking in a Sydney park, and the police approach you because you fit the description of a suspect. The police may detain you for questioning. Stay calm, provide your name and address, and remember you’re not obliged to say anything more.


Let’s say the police believe they have substantial evidence you’re involved in a burglary. They come to your home with an arrest warrant. They must tell you you’re under arrest and the reason for the arrest. If you’re taken into custody, you can ask to contact a lawyer before participating in any formal questioning.

In both scenarios, knowing your rights can influence your interactions with the police significantly. Although it can be stressful, remember to stay calm, be respectful, and consult a lawyer when necessary.

Remember, this information is a basic guide and does not constitute legal advice. Always consult a professional for advice tailored to your circumstances.