Arrest by police without warrant is one of the most prominent ways in which people in Zimbabwe have their right to personal liberty limited. The Constitution of Zimbabwe in section 12 sets out, in no uncertain terms, that no person shall be deprived of his or her personal liberty save as may be specified by operation of law. ​

Given the political and socio-economic woes that plague our country, many find themselves on the wrong end of the long arm of the law. We will delve into the intricacies of arrest by a police officer without the issuance of a warrant and in what circumstances it is permitted by law and carried out in the proper manner.

Section 25 and 26 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act Chapter 9:07 highlights the instances in which a police officer may lawfully arrest an individual without first obtaining an arrest warrant. A key aspect to lawful arrests without a warrant is the reasonable belief that a criminal offense is about to be, has been or is currently being perpetrated by the individual subject to the arrest. This is subject to the various schedules and provisions of the Act.

An individual can also be arrested by a police officer if he does not comply with an officer inquiring as to his name and address. This is the case where the individual may potentially be a witness to a crime, is reasonably suspected of having committed an offense or is a person whom the officer has the power to arrest.

In the event that one has been arrested without a warrant, the constitution states that you have the right to be informed of the reason for your arrest in a language that you understand and to contact legal representation at the earliest reasonable opportunity, at your own expense. In addition to the above, you have to be brought to a charge office or police station as soon as possible.

Once you are in custody, you cannot be held for longer than 48 hours without being brought before a judge or magistrate as the case may be. It should be noted that if the 48 hour period expires on a non-court day or on a court day after four o’clock in the afternoon, then the 48 hour period shall be deemed to have expired at four o’clock on the next court. If the 48 hour period expires on any court day before four o’clock, it shall be deemed to have expired at four o’clock on that day.

It has to be highlighted with extreme emphasis that if one feels their rights are being violated by an unlawful arrest with no warrant, the prudent manner of handling the matter is to comply with the arresting officer and take the matter up with legal counsel afterwards once in a controlled environment. The Constitution stipulates that in instances such as these, the individual will be entitled to compensation for unlawful arrest. Compliance with the arresting officer, regardless of the unlawfulness of the arrest, will avoid the escalation of the situation​

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