Police detention and arrest in Poland Part I

Usually, when the police officer stops for any kind of a control, it is pretty stressful situation. But how to behave yourself in case of police detention in Poland? What are your rights and what officer “can do”? Actually, the main idea for this article comes from conversation with Daniel, who poked me via comment on Facebook. I will allow myself to quote original message:

It would be amazing to read a post about our rights when getting stopped or questioned by police, what are our obligations as well. I think as foreigners is super important to know how to react to this situations.


I would like to comment this first. Not only foreigners are “not aware” about their rights and duties, especially if we talk about confrontation with police officer in a variate situations. I need to admit, that as I was investigating here and gathering data, I learned a lot as well. So! As usual, allow me to present bulleted list of a subjects which I covered with this post.

When is it possible to be detained by the Police?

Accordingly with Code of Conduct in misdemeanor cases, the Police have the right to detain a person caught in the act of committing an offense or immediately thereafter if:

  • there are grounds for applying the accelerated procedure to this person;
  • identity of such person cannot be established.

Issues related to arrest by the Police have also been regulated in the Code of Criminal Procedure – CCP (kodeks postępowania prawnego – kpk). Below two quotes from CCP:

According to Art. 244 of the Code of Criminal Procedure The police have the right to detain a suspect if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed a crime, and there is a risk of the person escaping or hiding or obliterating the traces of the crime, or its identity cannot be established or there are grounds to conduct accelerated proceedings against that person.

The police also have the right to detain a suspected person when there is a reasonable suspicion that they have committed a violent crime to the detriment of a person living together, and there is a risk that they will again commit a violent crime against that person, especially when committing such an offense is likely. An arrest takes place when such an offense was committed with the use of a firearm, knife or other dangerous object, and there is a risk that he will again commit a violent offense against a person living together, especially if suspected person is threatened with committing such an offense.

Why should I have the ID with me?

That is about the theory. Actually, just to summarize, police officer supposed to give you proper reason for detention. But police officer can approach you asking for documentation without any single reason. The police simply have this power, and you must comply with the request to present an identity document to the police officer. If you do not have any ID (or any other reliable document with picture), you would need to have someone with ID, who knows you and can confirm, that your name and second name are true. Why is it so important? Because if the police officer will not be able to establish your identity, you might be detained, until it is clarified.

I need to tell you something here as well. I do not want to write this article in the tone of hate against police. So, I would like to remind here, that “The Police” are the people as well. I have a few police officers in my family and I know, that they are just doing their work. On the base of example from my family: they do not walk through the street, looking for old single lady to stress her by IDing. Actually, they are good people and in majority of cases, police help me to feel myself safe. For example, when I was going out from football stadium and I saw them outside and inside of the building. Besides, who would you call in case of a robbery or direct threat from thugs at the front of your window?

But! Since they are just a people, between all the police officers, you may also find a real … ekhm! …“not nice people”. Just like in real life. So may message here is simple – if you did nothing wrong, do not resist during IDing – that is their job and orders from above. If you didn’t commit an offense, resisting is pointless and may escalate really badly. I hope, I made my point.

What power and obligations does a policeman have?

So, the power! Once again, I will start with quote from the tasks of the officers which were defined in the Act of April 6, 1990 about Police department.

Pursuant to these regulations, during the performance of official duties, a police officer has the right to ID persons in order to establish their identity. Performing activities, a police officer also has the right to detain persons in the manner and in cases specified in the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure and other acts.

The detention of a person may be used only when other measures have proved to be pointless or ineffective. 

In the course of performing their official duties, police officers are obliged to respect human dignity as well as observe and protect human rights.

If there is a justified need, the detained person should be immediately subjected to a medical examination or given first aid.

Actually, I think that this is clear. So, my interpretation here is pretty simple. Nothing to be worried about, if you did not commit any crime. But if a crime is involved, the competences of a police officer, but also your rights are as follows. The detainee should be informed immediately about the reasons for his detention and his rights, including the right to:

  • contact / use the help of an attorney or legal advisor;
  • use the free assistance of an interpreter if he or she does not have sufficient level of Polish;
  • submitting a declaration as well as refusing (I will come back to it in a next paragraph) to submit a declaration;
  • receipt of a copy of the detention report;
  • access to first aid and medical help;
  • lodging a complaint against the detention;
  • establishing contact with the competent consular office or diplomatic mission (in case of foreigners).

The Movie – Free courts / Wolne sądy

Ok – so far, so good, I hope. Below I am pasting a movie from “Wolne Sądy” (free courts), who made a short (1,5 minute) movie dedicated to regular citizens about their rights. I definitely advise to watch it. This movie contains English subtitles.

“YouTube – Wolne Sądy – Your rights, when police detains you.”

As comissioner Dobosz says: “You have the right to say nothing and sign nothing without a lawyer.” So, let’s have a closer look into the detention report.

Report of detention

A copy of the report shall be delivered to the detainee against receipt (signature). What should be included in the protocol? According to the CCP, these are:

  • name, surname and function of the person making the arrest;
  • name and surname of the detained (description of this person if it is impossible to establish identity);
  • the day, time, place and reason for the detention with an indication of the offense for which it was detained.

The statements made by the detained should also be recorded in the protocol and the information about their rights should be provided. A similar protocol is also drawn up in the case of an arrest related to a crime. A copy of such protocol is delivered to the detained person.

Detention by the police – for how long?

The time of detention according to the Code of Petty Offenses, should not exceed 24 hours, and if there are grounds for applying accelerated proceedings to suspects, maximum 48 hours. The time of detention of a person is counted from the moment of his capture.

At the time of detention, the detainee should be released immediately, when the reason for detention ceases to exist, and also if, within 48 hours from the moment of being arrested by the Police, the case is not submitted to the court with a request for temporary detention. The detainee must also be released on the order or the prosecutor’s office. Complexed, but important to know. Once again – in such situation, you have a right to contact your lawyer. Also, especially if you do not speak polish good enough, you have a right to use help of interpreter delivered by the authority on your demand. So how does this work with a lawyer?

Arrest and a lawyer

It is worth remembering about the right to contact an attorney or legal advisor. Upon his request, the detainee should be allowed to establish such contact in an accessible form and to be able to talk directly. A policeman – when it comes to an offense – may make a reservation, that he will be present at the interview.

In the event of crimes, the Police Officer may stipulate that he will be present during a direct conversation with an attorney or legal advisor only in exceptional cases, justified by special circumstances. Immediately after the arrest, the necessary data should be collected and the prosecutor should be notified of the arrest. If there are grounds for doing so, police will apply to the prosecutor to file a motion for pretrial detention.

Unjustified arrest by the police

Both in cases involving a crime and in misdemeanor cases, the detained person has the right to appeal against the detention. In such a complaint, the detainee demands examination of the legitimacy, legality and regularity of the detention.

But remember, that the mere issuance of an acquittal never prejudices that the detention or pretrial detention in your case was “undoubtedly unfair” (cf. Art. 552 § 4 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).

The best example here, is a scenario in which you got arrested and whole process goes really wrong – police officer is abusing his authority and forces you to sign a report of detention which is not true or which you don’t understand.

Summary of police detention in Poland

This article is pretty long and complexed, full of a legal language, which I tried to deliver in as accessible form as possible. But still, there is a lot to touch and explain. For example:

  • details about compensation for wrongful pretrial detention or arrest;
  • when the police can check and search us;
  • what is the citizen’s arrest ?

Would you like read about this? Shall I continue with making second episode from this legal series? Is this something, what is interesting for you? Maybe you have ideas for subjects to cover, which I missed. If so, let me know via comment box below. Update: Second part of this article already exists, as well as the third one.

Would you like to read more publications about “Everyday life” on my blog? Click Here You may also get to main “Table of content“, which is available here. Do you want to stay in touch and get updates about new posts? Subscribe now.

https://samorzad.infor.pl/sektor/zadania/bezpieczenstwo/388659,Zatrzymanie-przez-policje.html; https://www.infor.pl/prawo/prawo-karne/postepowanie-karne; http://isap.sejm.gov.pl/;



Daniel Gaona · 23/04/2021 at 18:53

Hello ! Thanks for making my idea become reality! Super helpful and informative! And yes we would like this topic to continue and explore other scenarios ! Thanks again !

    Mateusz · 23/04/2021 at 20:00

    Ok – glad to hear that. I am on it in such case 😉

Baz · 24/04/2021 at 16:18

Interesting, thank you

Nijat · 29/04/2021 at 20:12

Thank you very much Mateusz, for making our lives easier here in Poland. And you do it for free. This is amazing and helpful blog.

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