Have you ever been pulled over at a police roadblock? As a civilian, it’s important to know what rights you have when the police detain you to avoid any unwanted issues. Roadblocks are routinely conducted by the police for various purposes and motives. Regardless of their intentions, it’s normal to feel anxious when being stopped, with some scrambling to check the validity of their road taxes.
During the heydays of the Movement Control Order (MCO), roadblocks were frequently enforced by the Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM) that restricted the public’s movement across districts and states. Today, one may still encounter roadblocks on a routine basis, although movement restriction is not enforced anymore.
If, however, you are stopped at a roadblock, there is nothing to worry about. As a Malaysian citizen, you have full rights to defend yourself in such a situation. The most important thing one can do is to fully cooperate with the officer/s on duty to avoid any scuffles.
Before we familiarize our rights as a road user and as a Malaysian citizen, let’s first understand the jurisdiction of the authorities and the police in these situations. Familiarize yourself with these procedures involved in PDRM roadblocks.
The Jurisdiction of PDRM and Roadblocks
Under Akta Polis 1967, grants our police the authority to carry out their duties. Through Seksyen 21 of the Akta Polis, the police are granted the right and power to maintain peace and security on public roads.
Additionally, Seksyen 26 of the Akta Polis allows the conduction of traffic stops and roadblocks. However, this can only be done if the police believe that such actions are within reason and necessary to uphold the law. Therefore, the police have the right to detain or prevent any vehicle from passing at a roadblock.
If you are labeled suspicious or caught violating the law, the police have the right to detain and inspect your license and vehicle without a warrant under the same act, Seksyen 24. Any police officer may— (a) stop and detain any person— (i) whom he sees doing any act or who is in possession of anything; or (ii) whom he has reasonable grounds for suspecting is doing any act or is in possession of anything; for which a license, permit or authority is required under any law in force, for the purpose of requiring such person to produce such license, permit or authority.
While the police are granted such authority, the implementation of roadblocks can vary depending on different units such as traffic, anti-smuggling, and crime prevention. They may also differ based on their intended purpose, such as large-scale operations, routine roadblocks, or special operations like Ops Sikap.
But, does this give our police absolute power at roadblocks? Not quite. As a Malaysian citizen, you too, have the right to defend yourself in such situations, especially when the police utilize jargon or loose interpretations of your charges. Here are your rights that you need to know if you are detained at a roadblock.
What Should You Do At A Police Roadblock
When passing through a roadblock, avoid provoking the officers on duty and offer full cooperation if they stop you. Should you fail to cooperate, you can be charged under Seksyen 26 of the aforementioned Akta Polis. Resist, and you can be charged with more serious offenses, such as obstructing a public servant from performing their duties under Section 186 of the Penal Code. Don’t give the police a reason to detain you; cooperate with them instead.
Although the police have absolute powers, as a road user, you have the right to ask about the purpose of your detention. Additionally, basic information, such as the purpose of the roadblock and inspection should be openly communicated to everyone. There’s nothing wrong with asking this, but make sure you don’t obstruct the officers on duty.
If the police apprehend you for any reason, know that your rights as a detainee are protected by the Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC). You should be informed of the reason for your detention. Additionally, you have the right to contact your lawyer or your family. In addition, the police are only authorized to detain someone for up to 24 hours. If they wish to extend the remand period, they need to make an application before a magistrate.
If you are asked to exit the vehicle for a body search, the search should be conducted in a private area. There is no law that allows the police to force someone to strip naked. If you are instructed to strip for a search, you have the right to voice your objection.
Can You Record an Officer at a Police Roadblock?
Recording activities of police officers on duty are becoming more prevalent. Some argue that these recordings aim to discredit the authorities, while others believe that such recordings are important as evidence in court if the police demand bribes or are caught abusing their power. Regardless, there is no law that prohibits you from recording a police officer on duty.
However, if you intend to record, make sure that you do not disrupt the officers from performing their duties. For example, if the police are conducting an investigation, recording may be prohibited as it could potentially compromise the entire investigation. Therefore, the police have a right to request you to stop recording.
Ideally, the best way to proceed is to inform the police beforehand that you intend to record all conversations with them. With so many videos circulating on social media, anything shown can be painted in the wrong context to suit a narrative. Provocation may come from the recording party, but the video only shows one side of the story. At the end of the day, police officers are still humans with feelings; they will react when provoked.
Plainclothes police officers
Have you been approached by someone claiming to be a plainclothes police officer before? Unless you’re guilty of something, anyone would feel nervous and anxious upon your apprehension. As a layman like myself, it’s important to know your rights – don’t trust any plainclothes policemen easily by providing any personal information to them unless they have the proper credentials. If you are being apprehended for any reason, here are your rights as a detainee:
1. Ask to See Their Police Identification Card
If a police officer isn’t wearing a uniform, you have the right to demand to see their police identification card (ID) and personal identification card. The color of their police ID determines their rank.
- Blue = Inspector
- Yellow = Sub-inspector
- White = Auxiliary police
- Red = Officer who is suspended and has no power to detain a member of the public
2. Answer Only What is Required
When detained, you only need to provide basic information such as your name, ID number, and house address only. You don’t have to answer anything else unless the officer in question is conducting an interview in your area.
Always ask under what offense you are being arrested for and if the charges are true, you have a right to remain silent and only answer the questions in court.
Unless you have reasons to think the police are out to get you, arm yourself with knowledge about your rights such as access to a lawyer or contacting your family members. Do your part in eradicating corruption from our police force if any hints of bribery or setel tepi are mentioned. Note down the time, location, name, and police ID number for further disciplinary action. Taking note of the plate number of the patrol vehicle too helps smoothen the investigation process.
If you’re innocent, there’s nothing to be afraid of getting caught in a police roadblock. What you can do is remain calm, and go with the flow of the traffic. Running away would just escalate things and potentially hurt an innocent bystander in the process. We hope this guide serves as a gateway to knowing your rights as a civilian.
This article was originally published by Carlist in Bahasa Malaysia and translated to English by CARSOME editorial.
Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer or a police officer for additional information beforehand.