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The Osborns’s Concise Law Dictionary defines “arrest” as – “to deprive a person of his personal liberty by some lawful authority, for the purpose of compelling his appearance to answer a criminal charge or as a method of execution”. To put it in ordinary words, when you are arrested, it means you have been seized or held either by physical means or by being told verbally by another person usually a police officer. The reason for your arrest by the police is usually for you to be questioned and possibly sent to court to answer for a crime that you are suspected to have committed.


The Laws on arrest in Ghana are found in the 1992 Constitution, the Criminal Procedure Act, Act 30, 1960 and some other statutes and case law. This article is for the ordinary reader and so I do not intend to quote too much from these laws in order not to make it too legalese and difficult to read.


This write up will however attempt to shed light on some basics on ARREST to enlighten the general public who are usually confused when arrested by the police in many instances.


GENERAL SAFETY ADVICE – Whenever a police officer puts you under arrest. Do not resist even when you think it is an unlawful arrest. As professional as the Ghana Police Service has been over the years, their recent actions suggest that they are becoming trigger happy and it would be better you get arrested unlawfully and fight for compensation than to lose your life in a struggle with the police officer. This is not to encourage unlawful arrets, but to encourage peace and safety.    


It is important to appreciate Article 14 of the 1992 constitution of Ghana when talking about arrest. Article 14(2) states that when you are arrested or detained, the person arresting you must inform you in a language you understand, the reason for your arrest and that person must also inform you of your right to a lawyer of your choice. This means, it is unlawful for a police officer to ask you to follow him and that you will get to know why, when you get to the police station. He/She ought to tell you the reason for your arrest as enshrined in Article 14 of the constitution. In the case of Yaw Asante Vrs. The Republic [1972] 2GLR 177-197, a police officer told a taxi driver that his (police Officer) boss has asked him to call him to the station. Yaw Asante the taxi driver refused to go and told the police man, he would come when he is less busy. The police man attempted to take Yaw Asante by force to the police station by seizing his car key and this resulted in a fight where the uniform of the police officer was torn by Yaw Asante the taxi driver. The Appeals Court held that, the arrest was unlawful and the Taxi driver was entitled to resist an unlawful arrest. The proper thing for the police man to have done was for him to tell Yaw Asante that he was under arrest for an alleged assault and that would have put Yaw Asante under obligation to stop whatever he was doing and follow the police man to the police station. 


It is important to also say that the situation in the Yaw Asante’s case cannot make all arrests unlawful when the suspect has not been told why he is being arrested. If the police officer arrests you while you are in the process of committing a crime or you run upon seeing the police and you are chased and arrested, the police at that point has no obligation to tell you why you are getting arrested. It is presumed you know the offense you have committed. Section 7 of Criminal Procedure Act 1960, Act 30.


How long can you be kept in Custody?

Article 14(3) says that a person arrested can be kept for up to 48 hours without trial. This allows the police to speed up their preliminary investigations and put you before a court. If they are not able to process you for court within the 48 hours, they have to release you but with sufficient conditions that will ensure you come back whenever you are needed. These sufficient conditions are usually in the form of bail bonds. Persons of good standing in society can stand as sureties for you to assure the police that they can produce you anytime you are needed for further investigations. If the police however do not release you within these 48 hours, they have breached your right and the remedy you can get will be in the form of compensation if you press through the legal system.



A Police Officer and a Private Citizen – the police have enormous powers of arrest and even if they make mistakes in making arrests, they have some level of protection so long as they arrested within their standard operating manual limits. A private citizen also has some limited powers to arrest but he may not have any protection from the state if he arrests wrongfully. So, in simple words, both a police officer and a private citizen can arrest under various conditions.


Police can arrest either with a warrant or without a warrant. A warrant is generally an authority given to arrest a person by a court. Once a warrant has been issued for an arrest by a court, it remains in force until the person named in it has been arrested and brought to the court or until the court itself cancels the warrant. Basically, a police officer with a warrant only needs to show you the warrant which will usually have your name and the reason for your arrest, then he proceeds to arrest you and send you to the court within the shortest possible time.


On the other hand, a police officer may arrest without a warrant in the following situations:


1.       When you commit an offense in his presence

2.       When you obstruct a police officer from doing his work

3.       When you escape or attempt to escape from a lawful custody

4.       When you have in your possession items that can be used to break into homes and offices and you have no reasonable explanation for having those items.

5.       When you have in your possession stolen items.

A police officer can also arrest without a warrant even if he suspects you in the following instances

1.       If he suspects you have committed a crime

2.       If he suspects you are about to commit a crime and he cannot prevent you unless he arrests you.

3.       If he finds you in a highway, yard, building or other places during the night.

4.       If he suspects there is a warrant of arrest against you.

5.       If he suspects you have deserted or run away from the Army

6.       If he suspects you have done something outside Ghana which would have been a crime if you did it in Ghana.

A Private Citizen can also arrest if in his presence

1.       You commit an offense involving use of force or violence.

2.       You cause injury to public property

3.       You steal or defraud

4.       You cause bodily harm

5.      You cause injury to property in his lawful custody or belonging to him/her.

Remember that these must be done in the presence of the private citizen to give him the power to arrest you. When a private person effects an arrest, he is required to hand over the arrested person to the police as soon as possible. A private person cannot detain or imprison a person he has arrested.  


Other persons such as Magistrates, EOCO Officials, SSNIT officials etc have some powers of arrest but we shall leave that for another discussion.



The law dictates that even when you have seen with your own eyes, a person committing a crime, that person is still innocent until a competent court of jurisdiction has pronounce him guilty. This means that, whether an arrest is affected by the police or citizens, the arrested person should not be subject to any form of punishment. It is wrong to beat a suspected criminal. The recent killings of suspected armed robbers by the police for example is also wrong. The right thing to do is to gather all the evidence and supply that evidence in court so the court can give the prescribed punishment to the criminal when convicted.  A person who is subjected to beatings and other forms of inhumane treatments from an arresting party, can sue that person for damages or compensation.


Watch out for another edition on other aspects of arrest. Follow this blog so you can be prompted when other write ups are published. Thanks for reading and sharing.


DISCLAIMER: Do not consider articles on this website to be absolute pieces of legal advices. They are only meant to raise public awareness of law but may not necessarily be an advice for your situation. Get in touch with a qualified lawyer whenever you need an advice. You may check the General Legal Council website for a list of Lawyers and Chambers near you. or the Ghana Bar Association website


  1. Great education. Thanks for this write up

  2. Interesting information. Thanks for the education.


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