In the situation where you have been accused of committing crime, the police may come to arrest you. Try not to panic, and listen to what the police officer tells you. Upon the time of arrest, you have the rights:
- To be provided with an arrest warrant, unless you are caught red-handed;
- To be informed by the police officer of the reason of your arrest, in a language you understand;
- To remain silent. You are not obliged to say anything to the police officer;
- To be taken to the nearest police station as soon as possible;
- At the police station, you have the right to make one phone call to a local number for free. You may want to use the opportunity to call the union or a workers’ organisation;
- At the police station, to call to the consulate of your country in Hong Kong.
If the crime you have been accused of is not serious and if the officer considers that you do not need to be detained, you will be discharged on your own recognizance. Being discharged on your own recognizance does not mean the case against you is closed. It means you are not put in detention, although the case against you is still ongoing and you are still obliged to appear before a magistrate.
If the crime you have been accused of is a serious one, the police will detain and immediately bring you before a magistrate – generally within 48 hours after your arrest. You should inform the magistrate that you wish to be released on bail. The magistrate will later decide whether you need to be detained for a longer period, or to grant your bail request.
The magistrate may refuse your bail application and order that you should be detained. In that case, you may ask for a bail to a judge of the Court of First Instance (CFI) of the High Court. Do not be downhearted if the CFI judge refused to grant you bail. It does not mean that they think you are guilty of the crime. Remember, under the law, you are presumed to be innocent until there is a final court’s judgment establishes otherwise.
At the police station, you will be asked questions by the police officer. You have the right to be accompanied by an interpreter. Do not sign any document which content you do not understand. The police may ask you questions that tend to be incriminating. In that case, you may want to refuse to answer. Try not to feel intimidated and stick to your version of the story.
In the case where you need to get legal advice, such service is provided for free by the Duty Lawyer Service (DLS). The lawyers at the DLS will not represent you before the court, but only providing you with legal advice. The DLS has nine Legal Advice Centres across Hong Kong. You can find the details of the Centres here. The appointment sessions in each centre is from 6.25 p.m. to 7.45 p.m. Note that the Centres are not open every day and have different opening days. You firstly need to make an appointment in advance with one of the Centres, should you wish to attend their sessions.
You can also contact a relevant trade union or workers’ organisation if you are not confident to contact the DLS on your own. Top
Your movement and some of your basic rights will be restricted during the period of detention. Yet there are other rights that you are still entitled to, and which should not be deprived even though you are put in detention:
- Right not to be tortured – no state agents, including police officers, are allowed to use torture for whatever purposes, in any situation;
- Right to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. The condition of the place in which you are detained should be humane, and adequate food should be provided for free;
- Right to accept visitors;
- Right to be visited by and to have a private conversation with your lawyer;
- Right to receive medical treatment. Top
You may apply for legal aid should you need legal assistance for the proceedings at the court. There are different options available for you, depending on in which court you have been charged. Note that there is no guarantee that your application for legal aid will be granted, because there are requirements need to be met by the applicants. It is, however, still worth trying.
If you have been charged with an offence in the Magistrates’ Court, you may want to contact the Court Liaison Office of the Duty Lawyer Service. Click here for more information.
If you have been charged with an offence in the District Court, the Court of First Instance, the Court of Appeal, and the Court of Final Appeal, you can apply for legal aid provided by the Legal Aid Department (LAD). You can apply for legal aid regardless you are held in detention or not. If you are held in detention, you should apply for legal aid through the Correctional Service Department. If you are not being detained, you can apply for legal aid in person at the LAD office.
In order to be granted legal aid from the LAD, you need to meet both means and merits tests. The means test requires the applicants not to have financial resources of more than HKD 269,620. The merits test means legal aid will be granted to the applicants if it is in the interests of justice to do so. For more information on legal aid provided by the LAD, click here.
In the case where legal aid is not available for you, you may want to contact the Hong Kong Bar Association. They have a Bar Free Legal Service Scheme of which information you can find more here. Top