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Welcome to Lawbuntu Learn. Browse through the different legal topics to learn more about the law in South Africa.

Arrest, Search & Seizure

Do you need help with the law?

Are you in trouble with the law?

Learn about basic legal rights and responsibilities in this section.


Please visit our Official Documents page to download the South African Constitution.


“You have the right to an attorney” only applies to criminal matters.

When you commit a crime, the state convicts and punishes you.

Please visit our Official Documents page to download the Criminal Procedure Act for more information on legislation relating to crime.



Arrest is the lawful detention of a person reasonably suspected of having committed a crime. If you have been unlawfully arrested you may sue the Minister of Police for compensation for the inconvenience.


Police officers may arrest a person.

An ordinary citizen may also arrest a person that commits a crime in his or her presence. This is what is commonly known as a ‘citizen’s arrest’. When performing a citizen’s arrest a citizen has the same powers as the police- including the right to use necessary force to effect the arrest.



Bail is cash paid in order to get out of jail.

There are 3 types of bail.

  • Court: a court may set bail for a person.
  • Police: the police may set bail for a person.
  • Prosecutor: a prosecutor may set bail for an arrested person.

Only a court may set bail for more serious crimes.


In order for the State to have security that you will return to court.


The police must bring you to court within 48 hours of having arrested you, unless the 48 hours expires when the courts are closed, for example, over a weekend or on a public holiday.

If the 48 hours expires on a day when the courts are closed, the police must bring you to court on the very next day that the court is open.

The court will not give bail if it is concerned you will run away.


If you have been arrested for a minor crime bail may be set at the police station where you are being held.

However, if you have been arrested for a more serious crime then you will either have to contact a prosecutor to arrange a bail application or wait until you get to court to apply for bail.

What will you need to apply for bail?

You will need at least the following documentation:

  • Your identity document or passport to prove your identity; and
  • Something to prove that you live where you say your live, for example, a bank account statement, your utility bill, a signed lease agreement and an affidavit from the landlord confirming the lease agreement.

Click here for a list of attorneys recommended by Lawbuntu to assist you to apply for bail