WizLaw Some Basics to Know About Arrest: Understanding Your Rights and the Arrest Process


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Arrest is a term that holds significant weight in the legal landscape. It refers to the act of depriving a person of their personal liberty by lawful authority, either through physical means or verbal notification by a police officer. When you find yourself under arrest, it means you have been seized and may be required to appear in court to answer criminal charges. In this article, we will explore the fundamental aspects of arrest, your rights during an arrest, and the process involved in Ghana.

Understanding Arrest in Ghana​

In Ghana, the laws governing arrest can be found in the 1992 Constitution, the Criminal Procedure Act, Act 30 of 1960, as well as other statutes and case law. While the legal jargon can often be overwhelming, this article aims to provide a clear understanding of the basics of arrest for the general public. We will delve into the various aspects of arrest, including your rights, the duration of custody, and who holds the authority to make an arrest.

Your Safety Matters​

Before we delve into the intricacies of arrest, it is crucial to prioritize your safety. In any arrest situation, it is advised not to resist, even if you believe it to be an unlawful arrest. Recent incidents have highlighted the potential risks involved in confrontations with the police. It is better to comply with an unlawful arrest and pursue compensation later than to jeopardize your life in a struggle with law enforcement. It is crucial to prioritize peace and safety at all times.

Your Rights during an Arrest​

When it comes to your rights during an arrest, it is essential to refer to Article 14 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana. According to Article 14(2), the person arresting you must inform you, in a language you understand, of the reason for your arrest. They must also inform you of your right to a lawyer of your choice. It is unlawful for a police officer to ask you to follow them without specifying the reason for your arrest. The case of Yaw Asante Vrs. The Republic [1972] 2GLR 177-197 exemplifies this. In this case, a police officer attempted to arrest a taxi driver without clearly stating the reason. The appeals court ruled that the arrest was unlawful, and the taxi driver had the right to resist it. It is crucial for police officers to communicate the reason for an arrest to ensure transparency and compliance with the law.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. If you are arrested while in the process of committing a crime or if you flee upon seeing the police and are subsequently chased and arrested, the police are not obligated to inform you of the reason for the arrest. In such instances, it is presumed that you are aware of the offense you have committed (Section 7 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1960, Act 30).

Duration of Custody​

Article 14(3) stipulates that a person arrested can be kept in custody for up to 48 hours without trial. This period allows the police to conduct preliminary investigations and bring the case before a court. If the police are unable to process your case within the 48-hour timeframe, they are required to release you. However, they may impose conditions, such as bail bonds, to ensure your availability for further investigations. If the police fail to release you within the specified period, they have violated your rights, and you may seek compensation through the legal system.

Who Can Make an Arrest?​

In Ghana, both police officers and private citizens hold the power to make arrests, albeit under different circumstances and with varying levels of legal protection. Police officers can make arrests with or without a warrant. A warrant is an authorization issued by a court to arrest a specific individual. Once a warrant has been issued, it remains in force until the person named in it has been arrested and brought before the court, or until the court cancels the warrant. When a police officer has a warrant for your arrest, they are required to show you the warrant, which outlines the reason for your arrest, before taking you into custody. Subsequently, they must ensure you are presented before the court as soon as possible.


However, there are situations where a police officer can make an arrest without a warrant. These include:

  1. When you commit an offense in the presence of the police officer.
  2. When you obstruct a police officer from carrying out their duties.
  3. When you escape from lawful custody or attempt to do so.
  4. When you possess items that can be used to break into homes or offices, without a reasonable explanation.
  5. When you are found in possession of stolen items.
Additionally, a police officer can arrest you without a warrant if they suspect that:

  1. You have committed a crime.
  2. You are about to commit a crime, and the only way to prevent it is by arresting you.
  3. You are found in a highway, yard, building, or other places during the night.
  4. There is an existing warrant for your arrest.
  5. You have deserted or run away from the army.
  6. You have committed an offense outside Ghana that would have been a crime if committed within the country.
On the other hand, private citizens also have limited powers to make arrests under specific circumstances. A private citizen can make an arrest if they witness an offense involving the use of force or violence, injury to public property, theft or fraud, bodily harm, or injury to property in their lawful custody or belonging to them. However, the arrest must be made in the presence of the private citizen, and the arrested person must be handed over to the police as soon as possible. Private citizens do not have the authority to detain or imprison individuals they have arrested.

It is important to note that other individuals, such as magistrates, EOCO officials, and SSNIT officials, may also possess powers of arrest, but these fall outside the scope of this article.

The Presumption of Innocence​

In the legal system, the presumption of innocence is a fundamental principle. It dictates that even if you witness someone committing a crime, that person is considered innocent until proven guilty by a competent court. This principle applies to arrests made by both the police and private citizens. Regardless of the circumstances of an arrest, the arrested person should not be subjected to any form of punishment. It is crucial to refrain from resorting to violence or inhumane treatment. Instead, gather all the evidence and present it in court, allowing the judicial system to determine guilt and administer appropriate punishment. Victims of mistreatment during an arrest have the right to seek damages or compensation through legal channels.


Understanding the basics of arrest is crucial for every individual. By knowing your rights and the arrest process, you can navigate such situations with confidence. In Ghana, the laws governing arrest are enshrined in the 1992 Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Act, Act 30 of 1960, among others. It is essential to prioritize your safety during an arrest, as resistance can lead to severe consequences. Remember, it is the duty of the arresting officer to inform you of the reason for your arrest in a language you understand. The duration of custody is limited to 48 hours without trial, and any violation of this timeframe entitles you to seek compensation.

Both police officers and private citizens possess the power to make arrests, either with or without a warrant, depending on the circumstances. However, it is crucial to ensure that arrests are conducted lawfully and with respect for the rights of the individual being apprehended. The presumption of innocence must be upheld, allowing the legal process to determine guilt and administer appropriate punishment.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended to raise public awareness of the law and should not be considered as legal advice. For personalized guidance, it is recommended to consult a qualified lawyer. You can find a list of lawyers and chambers near you on the General Legal Council website or the Ghana Bar Association website.

Additional Information:

  • It is advisable to remain calm and cooperate with law enforcement during an arrest to avoid unnecessary complications or risks to your safety.
  • Familiarize yourself with your rights and the laws of your country to ensure you are well-informed in case of an arrest.
  • Seek legal advice from a qualified lawyer for personalized guidance in legal matters.