Jail Bars

Your rights after the arrest is made

Under the Bill of Rights you have certain undeniable rights when you are being arrested. If you are arrested make sure you get legal representation as soon as possible. Civil and political rights are guaranteed under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (BoRA), and generally apply equally to citizens and non-citizens. The Human Rights Act 1993 deals with unlawful discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, and national or ethnic origins, the incitement of racial disharmony and racial harassment. Section 149D of the Immigration Act 1987, which governs immigration in New Zealand, prevents the Human Rights Commission from investigating alleged discrimination in the Immigration Act and under policy developed pursuant to that Act. Only complaints of alleged discrimination in New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS) service delivery can be accepted. This is based on the argument that immigration is, by its nature, discriminatory. In 2004-2005, NZIS is reviewing aspects of the Immigration Act. NZIS, which is part of the Department of Labour, operates under the Immigration Act 1987, issuing visas and permits for people coming here to visit, work, study, or live. The NZIS provides policy advice to Government and is responsible for ensuring compliance with New Zealand ‘s immigration laws. It is also responsible for the refugee programme, and has a role in helping migrants and refugees to resettle in New Zealand.


  • The right to a lawyer – A person who has been arrested or detained has the right to consult and instruct a lawyer without delay, and to be informed of that right. “Without delay” does not mean instantly or immediately, but means without any unreasonable delay; the point is that you must be able to exercise your right to a lawyer before your interests are jeopardised.

  • Being charged – Everyone who is arrested for an offence has the right to be charged promptly or to be released. (For information on facing criminal charges generally, see How to: Facing criminal changes.)

  • Statements to the Police – Everyone who is arrested or detained for an offence or suspected offence has the right to refrain from making any statement and to be informed of that right (see the Cautionary Notes below).

  • Habeus corpus – Everyone who is arrested or detained has the right to have the validity of the arrest or detention determined without delay by bringing a writ of habeus corpus to the court (it means “produce the body”), and to be released if the arrest or detention is not lawful.

  • Human treatment – Everyone deprived of liberty must be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the person.

  • If you are arrested you should contact a lawyer before you make any statement to the Police. Your lawyer should be present while the Police question you.

  • If you make a statement, the Police can use it in evidence against you.

Have my rights been breached?

If the Police breach any of these rights contained in the Bill of Rights, there are a number of potential consequences. One is that any evidence they obtain can be excluded. Another consequence is that they may be ordered to pay money to you to compensate you for the breach of your rights. It is important that you obtain the advice of a lawyer to see if these options may apply in your case. If you have been arrested and feel any of your rights have been breached get in touch with Queen City Law for expert legal representation. To contact us click here.

Remember in preparing your for your defence of charges you must be given adequate time to prepare – A person who has been charged has the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defence. But the same token there should be no undue delay, you have the right to be tried without undue delay. If English is not your first language advise the arresting officer or lawyer as every person charged has the right to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he or she cannot understand or speak the language used in court. Every one accused of a crime will get a fair hearing and you will be presumed innocence – until proven guilty. Children have the right to be dealt with in a way that takes account of their age. In New Zealand there are no retrospective convictions – You cannot be convicted of an offence if the act in question was not a criminal offence at the time it took place. You cannot be tried or punished for an offence if you have already been acquitted or convicted of the offence or if you have been pardoned for it.