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Arrest by police in the Australian Capital Territory is governed by the Crimes Act 1900. When making an arrest, a police officer must inform the person that they are under arrest and the reason for the arrest.

Reasons for arrest

Police can arrest you if they reasonably suspect you have committed an offence, are committing an offence, or are about to commit an offence. They can also arrest you if a warrant (written authority) for your arrest has been issued by a court. Under Section 212, they can also arrest someone to:

  • ensure the person appears in court;
  • prevent a repetition or continuation of an offence or another offence;
  • prevent the concealment, loss or destruction of evidence;
  • prevent harassment of, or interference with, a potential witness;
  • prevent the fabrication of evidence;
  • preserve the person’s safety or welfare.

When a warrant has been issued but police do not have it in their possession, they can still arrest the person named on it and bring him or her before a magistrate. Also, police can arrest a person without a warrant if they suspect the person is a prisoner at large.


Under Section 219, an arrest warrant must not be issued unless the police have provided sworn reasons for the warrant, including why it is believed a person committed an alleged offence and why it is believed the person will not comply with a summons.

Entering premises to make arrest

Under Section 220, police must have both a warrant in relation to “a relevant offence” and a belief on reasonable grounds that a certain person is present before they can enter premises to arrest that person.

If they have both the warrant and the belief, they can use necessary and reasonable force, at any time of the day or night, to search for and arrest the person. However, police must not enter a “dwelling house” at any time between 9pm and 6am unless it would not be practicable to arrest the person at any place at another time, or it is necessary to do so to prevent the concealment, loss or destruction of evidence. “Dwelling house” includes a room in a hotel, motel, boarding house or club.

A “relevant offence” includes an offence that involves actual or threatened violence, or possession of offensive weapons.

Right to be told grounds for arrest

Under Section 222, a person is to be told what they are arrested for at the time of the arrest. The Act specifies that this does not have to be done in “language of a precise or technical nature”. Further, it does not have to be done if the person being arrested should, in the circumstances, know the substance of the alleged offence or if the person’s actions make it impracticable for him or her to be informed.

Other powers of arrest (citizen’s arrest)

Under Section 218 of the Act, a person who is not a police officer may, without warrant, arrest another person if he or she believes on reasonable grounds that the other person is committing or has just committed an offence. However, anyone who does this must, as soon as practicable after the arrest, arrange for the other person, and any property found on the other person, to be handed over to police.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Michelle Makela

This article was written by Michelle Makela

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (State and Federal Industrial Tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

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