The Constitution’s Bill of Rights and the Criminal Procedure Act offer a reasonable set of circumstances to those who find themselves in trouble. Know your rights!
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa guarantees certain fundamental rights that are protected under all circumstances – even for those who are under arrest.
These four rights belong to all arrested suspects in terms of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights:
Right to remain silent in terms of s35 (1)(a) of the Constitution
Although arrested persons have the right to remain silent, they are required to provide their names and addresses.The arresting officer must inform the arrested person of the consequences of not remaining silent – that is, that any statement made by the accused may be used as evidence against the accused in a court of law.
Right to be brought before court within 48 hours
Section 48 of the Criminal Procedure Act provides for bringing an arrested person before a court of law within 48 hours.Section 35(1)(d) of the Bill of Rights states accused have the right to be brought before court as soon as reasonably possible, but no later than:48 hours after the arrest; orthe end of the first court day after expiry of the 48 hours, if the 48 hours expire outside ordinary court hours or on a day which is not an ordinary court day.The 48 hour period applies only to ordinary court hours and days and as such excludes weekends and public holidays from the calculation.
Right not to be compelled to make confession
Section 35(1)(c) of the Constitution guarantees arrested persons of the right not to be compelled to make a confession or admission that could be used as evidence against them.If persons are forced to make a statement against their will, such statement will not be admissible in a court of law.
Other rights of arrested and detained and accused persons
Section 35(4) of Constitution requires that when giving information to a person, the information must be given in a language the person understands.Section 35(5) of Constitution states that evidence obtained in a manner violating rights must be excluded from trial if it would render the trial unfair or defeat the administration of justice.