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Arrested in Indonesia!

The thought of being arrested in a foreign country is scary enough but to actually be arrested and charged with a crime in a foreign country is one of the scariest things you can ever experience. There are so many stories about foreigners going to jail for crimes they did not commit or did not pay a bribe in time and end up suffering a horrible fate. Indonesia has many stories like this, and we felt it was important to provide you with a basic understanding of what happens if you are charged with a crime in Indonesia. We believe knowledge is power and this article aims to equip you with the knowledge you need to navigate this.

The first thing you need to know, and as cliched as this sounds, DO NOT PANIC. If you panic you cannot think clearly, if you cannot think clearly you may say or do something that will make your experience even worse.

Police in Indonesia, believe it or not, are bound to procedure when it comes to arresting you and if they are found to be operating outside this procedure, they can face serious consequences. The first thing you need to know is a police officer cannot arrest you with some form of basic preliminary evidence. These means they cannot just suspect you are guilty of a crime and come and arrest you (unless of course you are actually in the act of doing the crime itself)– there must be some sort of evidence.

Let’s say you are at home relaxing in your villa in Bali and all of a sudden there is a loud knock at the door! You didn’t order any GoJek and you are not expecting any visitors. You open the door and you are confronted with an angry looking police officer who is there to arrest you.

Using this example above let’s look at: When can police arrest you?

1- Doing the Crime

Of course, this makes sense. If you are caught breaking the law – you can be arrested. There are so many different laws in Indonesia it can be a bit of a mind field. Always best to think if it is a law in your country – it is more than likely a law in Indonesia!

An interesting point – once you have been arrested the police must transfer you to the custody of the investigator along with any evidence they found at the time of the arrest.

2 - Under warrant

Police have the right to arrest you if there is a warrant out for your arrest. However, they must produce two documents when they arrest you.

1- Arrest Warrant

2- Letter of Assignment -

Without both of these documents the police cannot arrest you!

The arrest warrant must contain the following information:

- the suspect’s identity

- the reasons for arrest

- brief explanation of the criminal case of which he is suspect

- the place where he is to be interviewed

A copy of this arrest warrant must also be sent to your family.

If the police cannot show you the warrant with this information or they refuse to show you the warrant of letter of assignment – you can legally resist the arrest and refuse to go with them.


When it comes to arresting someone, According to Law Criminal Procedures (KUHAP) police must produce two (2) basic preliminary forms of evidence.

These can be but are not limited to:

- witness statements

- expert opinions

- written evidence

- defendant’s testimony

Without two (2) forms of evidence, the police cannot arrest you.

Like I said at the beginning knowledge is power but being smart is even more powerful! We do not advise you to resist arrest in case it becomes violent and someone gets hurt. If you are forced to accompany a police officer to the police station, we suggest you do so calmly and peacefully. It is always sound advice to follow police instructions.

If the police assault you during the arrest you must bring this up with your legal counsel and make it a subject at your pre-trial hearing. Police brutality is a serious crime in Indonesia and those police officers that are charged with it face serious consequences.

Ok – moving on. Let’s say you have been arrested and you have peacefully gone with the police to the police station. What’s next? You need to know your rights!


Suspects rights

The following rights are laid out in the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHAP)

1. The right to legal counsel and to contact your embassy.

It is a suspect’s right to contact their countries embassy upon being arrested. After which you will need to arrange legal counsel who will help with the police investigation and your pre-trial hearing.

If you are charged with a crime that carries the death penalty or a maximum sentence of fifteen years or more, then you are entitled to receive legal counsel for free.

If the maximum sentence of the crime is imprisonment of five years or more but you are destitute (ie: cannot find any funds for legal counsel), then you are entitled to receive legal counsel for free.

Meanwhile, if the crime carries a sentence of under 5 years imprisonment or above 5 years but you are not destitute person, KUHAP does not require you to be accompanied by legal counsel during an investigation by the police.

2. The right to get interpreter during the investigation.

At all stages during the investigation you have the right to an interpreter who will be on hand to translate for you what is happening.

3. Request to release after 1x24 hour since you get arrested.

According to KUHAP article 19 verse 1, the period of arrest can last no longer than 24 hours (one day). However, an investigator has the right to detain you for a period of up to 20 days if they feel there needs to be a more in-depth investigation.

The 20-day detention period can be extended to maximum of 40 days if required.

After 40 days you should be released.

4. Investigation without pressure, threats, violence both physical and psychological.

You have the right to give your statement freely without any pressure from anyone including physical or psychological violence. If you experience any form of violence you must inform your legal counsel as soon as possible.

There have been times when the investigator or police have used force to gain a confession. This confession is not admissible in court however investigators and police tend to lie in these situations and the confession is admitted.

The force used can vary from physical beatings to electrocution. It can be very dangerous and some people have died while in police custody.

Investigators rights for detaining suspects

Just as suspects has rights, an investigator has some rights that you need to be aware of.

As we stated above, a police investigator has a right to detain you in custody for the investigation up to a maximum of 40 days. However, there are another 3 (three) reasons when an investigator can detain you:

1- The suspect might will flee – either the village, town, region, country

2- The suspect might destroy physical evidence

3- The suspect might recommit the crime

Requests for postponing detention

It seems strange but a suspect, an investigator, a prosecutor or a judge may request a postponement of detention with or without bail money or a personal guarantee on the basis of specific conditions.

There are many reasons for this to happen and it is always best to seek advice from your legal counsel if this can apply to you.

Specific conditions for postponing detention

- A serious medical condition based on a doctor examination or your medical history

- The obligation to report to the police station where you were being investigated

- Remaining in your primary residence

- Agreeing to not leave the town

Changing the type of detention

It is possible to request a change in the type of detention during your investigation.

Types of detention available to you are:

a. Detention in a state detention house – ie: JAIL!

b. House arrest

House arrest shall be affected at the home or residence of the suspect with a supervision over him to prevent anything which might create difficulties for the investigation

c. City arrest

City arrest shall be affected in the city where a suspect stays or resides with an obligation to report himself at specified times.

The bad news is when it comes to foreigners being arrested it is very rare to be granted a postponement or change of detention. If you have been charged with drugs – you can forget it. Drug cases are the most common case for foreigners in Indonesia, especially Bali, and they are the ones that get the most media attention, which means you will have to go through your detention period at the state detention house.

So there you have it. You now know what to expect if you are arrested for a crime in Indonesia. The best way to avoid all of this is to not commit any crimes.

Until next time!

Stay safe!


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