The lawyers at LawAid International are here to help. We understand how stressful it can be for anyone when they are accused of a crime, or are challenging the state.

This section explains your rights in relation to the New Zealand criminal justice system and the police. Everybody has the same rights.

For people who are unfamiliar with the criminal justice system and process, head to the Community Law website and download the resource “community law manual online”. Follow the link for “criminal courts”  

Dealing with Police

  • Always give your correct name, date and place of birth, and your address.

  • Do not go with the Police unless you have been arrested.

  • Simply ask “Am I free to go?”

  • Do not give any statement to the Police. In fact, do not say anything.

  • If you have been arrested, ask to speak with a lawyer.

  • If a friend or family member is being spoken to by Police or being arrested, do not interfere.

Searched by Police

Police can only search you, your bag or your car if:  

  • you agree; or

  • they arrest you; or

  • they have a search warrant; or

  • they believe that you have drugs or offensive weapons on you.

Police can only search your house if:

  • you agree; or

  • they have a search warrant to search it; or

  • they believe that there are drugs, weapons or explosives in your house.

Stopped by Police 

Police can stop you if you are driving on suspicion of drinking and driving. You must:

  • take a breath screening test if asked; and

  • if you fail or refuse they can ask you to go with them to the police station for an evidential test; and

  • if you do not go with them, you can be arrested; and

  • you can speak with a lawyer before you take the evidential breath or blood test.

Police can take you home if you are drunk or “out of it”. If this is not an option, they can take you to a detox centre or temporary shelter, and if no one can take you, the Police can hold you for up to 12 hours until you are able to look after yourself.

Arrested by Police 

If a person is detained or arrested by the police, they have the right to speak to a lawyer to get legal advice. The police must advise the person of their right to contact a lawyer and the right to remain silent.

  • you must give your name, address, date and place of birth; and

  • allow fingerprints and photo to be taken of you; and

  • in some cases police may take blood samples or samples from your mouth for DNA analysis.

  • You have the right to talk to a lawyer (there will be a list of lawyers you can speak to free of charge and in private).

  • You can ask if you can be released on bail (Police bail). It is not automatic, if it is ok then you will be given a date to appear in court on the summons form.

  • If the charge is considered too serious, or Police policy does not allow you to be given Police bail you will be held by Police at the station to appear in court at the earliest opportunity. If this is a weekday, you will likely appear in court the following day. If it is a Saturday or Sunday, you will appear on Monday.

Appearing in Court

  • When you appear in court ask to speak with a duty solicitor if you have not arranged or instructed your own lawyer.

  • A duty solicitor is a lawyer provided to you free of charge who will arrange take “instructions” from you and make an application to get you bailed.

  • If it is considered too serious, you may get a legal aid lawyer assigned to assist you to get bail.

  • You may see a legal aid support officer who will assist you to apply for legal aid.

  • If you qualify, the Ministry of Justice will write and let you know who your lawyer is and give you their contact details.

  • Make contact with your lawyer as soon as you are able.


If you have never been in trouble with the Police before and you are charged with a fairly minor charge, the Police may consider diversion for you.

  • Diversion is a scheme run by the New Zealand Police usually for first offenders with minor charges. You will enter a plea of guilty, meet with the Police and sign a contract with the Police to either:

  • write an apology letter to the victim; and/or

  • pay a donation to a charitable organisation; and/or

  • carry out community work for a registered organisation; and/or

  • complete a defensive driving course (if the offence is driving related); and/or

  • pay reparation.

If completed successfully, the charge is withdrawn and no conviction is entered in your name.

Legal Aid 

If you get legal aid, you may be required to pay some of the lawyer’s fees back to the Ministry of Justice or you may be given an outright grant with no repayment.

You have a choice of legal aid lawyer if your charge carries a maximum term of imprisonment of over 10 years and you elect trial by jury.

You do not have a choice of legal aid lawyer if your charge carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years or less.

Private Lawyer

You can choose any lawyer to represent you. At LawAid International, we have experienced lawyers available to attend to assist on any criminal matter, anywhere in New Zealand and overseas.