Know your rights

Alongside our treatment services, Skoun-Lebanese Addictions Center brings you its Know Your Rights Campaign to empower, educate and shed the light on the harms caused by punitive drug control in Lebanon. You have rights during arrest, at the police station, and in court.

Arrest

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Interrogation

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Prosecution

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Arrest

There are five known ways in which arrests are made:

1. You may be stopped and searched:

At random, you may be stopped by police either at checkpoints or while you are walking down the street and searched along with any individuals you are with. If any drugs are uncovered in your vehicle or personal belongings, all the individuals present will be arrested and taken to the police station.

Police often profile citizens based on their physical appearance, style, age and/or the location they are in. Common violations in these cases are verbal and sometimes physical. Unlawful searches are also conducted by police in civilian clothing who do not properly identify themselves.

If you find yourself in such a situation, make sure to stay calm, since aggressive behavior may increase suspicions and negatively influence the outcome of your predicament. Maintain eye contact with the officer and engage in an assertive yet polite conversation in order to avoid being bullied or coming off as guilty. Ask questions and answer any reasonable questions you are asked.

You have the right to:

1. Be informed of who the person searching you is and under what authority he/she is acting.
2. Knowing the reasons you are being stopped and searched.
3. Not to be profiled, and to be spoken to, handled and/or arrested in a humane manner without verbal or physical mistreatment.

2. You may be arrested during a police stakeout:

Another way that police may arrest you is by catching you in the act of purchasing drugs or receiving drugs in any way from a dealer they are staking out. Both the dealer and the buyer will be arrested.
A second scenario is entrapment, where an arrested dealer will be forced to contact his/her customers in order to set them up for a fake deal in order to arrest you once you show up.

3. You may be subject to a raid following a police “tip off”:

Oftentimes, police may raid locations or residences where drug use is suspected of taking place. You have the right to know who the persons performing the raid are, the reason behind the raid, and to ask for and be presented with a search warrant from the Public Prosecutor before allowing police to enter, as well as the right to refuse to allow them to enter if they fail to present you with the warrant.

Common violations include:

- Invasion of work places and/or houses by police who do not possess a legal search warrant
- Raid of a location whereby police show up in civilian clothing and without any official identification
- Arrest of persons present in the location regardless of whether or not they are related to the case
- Physical and verbal abuse that often accompanies these raids.

You have the right to:

1. know who the persons performing the raid
2. Know the reason behind the raid
3. Ask for and be presented with a search warrant from the Public Prosecutor before allowing police to enter
4. Refuse to allow them to enter if they fail to present you with the warrant.

4. The call. This can happen in two ways

You might get a call from the police station, in most cases Hobeish, to present yourself at a certain time. The reason behind their request is not given and this is done intentionally. It is your legal right to know the reason for which you are being summoned.

If you do choose to go to the police station, consult with your lawyer before going. Make sure to have someone accompany you to the police station in order to notify your lawyer in case you are arrested.

In other cases if you are arrested for drug use, you can be released but requested to submit to a urine test 40 days after your arrest. This is under the authority of the Public Prosecutor. The violation occurs when police continue to harass citizens after the 40 days period requested by the Public Prosecutor.

5. Arbitrary urine testing

Sometimes, you may be at the police station or arrested for a reason totally unrelated to drug use but police may request you to submit to a urine test. This is a clear abuse of power and you have the right to refuse the test.

Interrogation

After being arrested, you will be taken to the police station where you will be asked several questions such as:

“Do you use drugs?”
“Where do you get the substance from?”
“Who do you use drugs with?”
“Do you know any of the dealers?”
“Who taught you how to use drugs?”
“Where do you meet the dealer?”

The main purpose of these questions is receiving a confession and receiving names of other individuals they can pursue. If you don’t give police names, they might search your phone themselves for calls, conversations and/or pictures that they might determine to be drug related in order to summon people from your contact list. You will then be subject to a urine test.

Searching your phone, which is a common tactic in drug related investigations, is a violation of the law. Phone searches require a special permission from the Investigative Judge, however what is happening currently, phone searches are being authorized by the Public Prosecutor, which is in clear violation of the law.

Several violations occur at police stations, including:

- Verbal and physical abuse,
- Threats
- Humiliation, for example asking you to submit urine test in an exposed hallway.
- beating
- Intimidation
- False promises given by police in order to extract information.
- Invasion of privacy is common, beginning with police looking through your mobile conversations and pictures.

A confession will immediately have you prosecuted, even if there are no traces of drugs in your urine. Giving out names will make the interrogation longer, and you will be spending more time at the police station.

You have the right to refuse any medical procedure, including submitting a urine test. However, you must know that refusing to undergo the urine test may lead to verbal and physical violence from the police and can be used against you as evidence of guilt. You have the right to being treated with dignity, and to being provided privacy when performing a urine test. If your urine test comes out negative and you have not performed a confession, you will not be prosecuted or taken to court. However, sometimes you are taken to court regardless, and it is up to the judge to release you. You can submit an oral or written form (available at Skoun) in order to be released.

It is very important to know that even if you were released from detention, this does not mean you will not be prosecuted later. You can be summoned to court months or even years after you are released from the police station.

If your urine test comes back positive, meaning there are traces of drugs in your body, you should ask to immediately be referred to the “Addiction Committee”, which will lead to a stop in all prosecutions against you and refer you to a center for drug counseling. Remember to always practice your right and ask for the referral to treatment, as this will change the course of your case. Of course, there is a chance that your request will be refused at the police station and you will still be taken to a judge. However, you can also ask the judge for the referral.

Prosecution

According to article 183 of the Narcotics Law, the Public Prosecutor can stop prosecution and refer you to the Addiction Committee. Meaning you can be referred directly from the police station without having to go through courts. However, this is not happening in drug use cases. You might be released from the police station but Public Prosecutor will send your case to the court for prosecution.

You can ask for a referral to treatment at this stage as well. If the referral is granted, the prosecution will stop and you will be referred to the Addiction Committee for drug counselling and treatment.

If the referral was not granted, you will still be prosecuted and your file will be sent to another judge according to the file and nature of accusations in it. In cases of drug use accusations only, meaning there was no mention of dealers or traffickers, the case will be referred to the Misdemeanors Court. In the case of drug use and dealing accusations, meaning the file includes drug users and drug dealers, and then the case will be referred to the Felonies Court. Because of the huge amount of legal files pending at courts and the limited resources, the prosecution might take more time than expected; a court session might be postponed several times and for months. You have to be very patient when it comes to Judiciary.

Remember, at any stage of prosecution and at any judge or court, you can ask for referral to the Addiction Committee. This is the only way to avoid having a verdict on your criminal record.

It is very important to know if found guilty no matter what the sentence even if it’s just a fine with no jail time; you still will have a criminal record.

Things to always remember:

- Name of the judge processing your case.
- Date of court sessions that you have to attend.
- Keep all the documents related to your case.

If you were not granted your right to referral to the Addiction Committee, and you were, instead, sentenced to jail time or a fine, you can appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court. However, an appeal can be only done within few days after the verdict so you need to contact your lawyer as soon as you get the verdict.

Our Blog

"Support. Don't Punish" a Drug Talk on Monday 26th of June by Skoun

Police Stakeout
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Learn About Human Rights Violations During Arrest

Police Raids
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What are my rights during arrest and investigation?
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Arbitrary Urine Testing
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The police call!
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"Support. Don't Punish" a Drug Talk on Monday 26th of June by Skoun

Learn About Human Rights Violations During Arrest

What are my rights during arrest and investigation?

Although the use of drugs is considered to be a crime, it does not deprive you of your rights during arrest and interrogation, which are enshrined by law. Your rights are highlighted below:

- Your right to a humane and lawful arrest, without verbal or physical violence.
- Your right to know what evidence is being used against you.
- Your right to call a family member, employer, lawyer, or any relative.
- Your right to meet with a lawyer. Make sure to appoint a lawyer with previous experience in narcotics law.
- Your right to a sworn translator if you do not have good command of Arabic.
- Your right to remain silent.
- Your right to ask for a doctor.
- Your right to know all your rights.
- Your right to not to be detained at the police station without a decision by the General Prosecutor’s office within a 48-hour period, renewable only once with the approval from the General Prosecutor’s office, resulting in a maximum stay of 96 hours.
- Your right to not to be searched, or have your home searched without order from the General Prosecutor’s office.
- Your right to refuse any medical procedure, including undergoing a urine test. It is important to note that refusing to undergo the urine test may expose you to verbal violence such as threats and intimidation, and physical violence such as beatings or coercion to undergo the test. Your refusal can also be used against you as an evidence of guilt. Therefore, it is very important to evaluate your situation and make the right decision.
- Your right to refuse the search of your phone. Searching your phone, which is a common tactic in drug related investigations, is a violation of the law. Phone searches require a special permission from the Investigative Judge, however what is happening currently, phone searches are being authorized by the Public Prosecutor, which is in clear violation of the law.

The police call!

 

 

You might get a call from the police station, in most cases Hobeish, to present yourself at a certain time. The reason behind their request is not given and this is done intentionally. It is your legal right to know the reason for which you are being summoned.

 

If you do choose to go to the police station, consult with your lawyer before going. Make sure to have someone accompany you to the police station in order to notify your lawyer in case you are arrested.

In other cases if you are arrested for drug use, you can be released but requested to submit to a urine test 40 days after your arrest. This is under the authority of the Public Prosecutor. The violation occurs when police continue to harass citizens after the 40 days period requested by the Public Prosecutor.

Police Stakeout

Another way that police may arrest you is by catching you in the act of purchasing drugs or receiving drugs in any way from a dealer they are staking out. Both the dealer and the buyer will be arrested.


A second scenario is entrapment, where an arrested dealer will be forced to contact his/her customers in order to set them up for a fake deal in order to arrest you once you show up.

 

Police Raids

Oftentimes, police may raid locations or residences where drug use is suspected of taking place. You have the right to know who the persons performing the raid are, the reason behind the raid, and to ask for and be presented with a search warrant from the Public Prosecutor before allowing police to enter, as well as the right to refuse to allow them to enter if they fail to present you with the warrant.

Common violations include:

- Invasion of work places and/or houses by police who do not possess a legal search warrant
- Raid of a location whereby police show up in civilian clothing and without any official identification
- Arrest of persons present in the location regardless of whether or not they are related to the case
- Physical and verbal abuse that often accompanies these raids.

You have the right to:

1. Know who the persons performing the raid
2. Know the reason behind the raid
3. Ask for and be presented with a search warrant from the Public Prosecutor before allowing police to enter
4. Refuse to allow them to enter if they fail to present you with the warrant.

 

Arbitrary Urine Testing

Sometimes, you may be at the police station or arrested for a reason totally unrelated to drug use but police may request you to submit to a urine test. This is a clear abuse of power and you have the right to refuse the test.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I be arrested if the police suspect that I use drugs, even if I did not have any drugs on me?

Yes. Even though there is no clear evidence for an arrest, the police officer has the right to take you to the police station for further investigation.

If I am not a drug user, but I happen to be with my friends who are in possession of drugs and they get arrested, will I be arrested/interrogated/prosecuted?

Yes. Even if you don’t have drugs in your body or actually have drugs on you, but drugs were found in the car, house, office, place you are in you will still be taken to the police station for further investigation. After the investigation is closed, it’s up to the Public Prosecutor to prosecute you (send your file to court) or no.

If I was under the influence during contact with the police, and I did not possess any drugs, can I still be arrested?

Yes. Suspecting you are under the influence is enough evidence for the police to make an arrest.

How long do I stay at the police station?

The legal time to stay in interrogation is 48 hours that can be extended to another 48 hours but only with Public Prosecutor permission. That’s a total of 96 hours.

How can I ask to be referred to the Addiction Committee? Will my request be achieved?

Referral to the Addiction Committee can be requested orally during investigation or in front of a judge or can be submitted through a written request that can be prepared by a lawyer. Requesting the referral, whether orally or written, does not guarantee the approval of referral.

If I am referred to the Addiction Committee does the prosecution stop?

Yes. Referral to the Addiction Committee stops the prosecution and prevents a verdict.

What can I do if I cannot afford a lawyer?

If you can’t afford a lawyer, call Skoun and we will help you. When you are at the court, you can ask the judge to assign a lawyer for you. This will be free of charge.

If I get arrested, will it automatically be inscribed on my criminal record “sejel 3adle”?

No. Only a verdict from a court will be inscribed on your criminal record. ANY verdict, even a fine, from ANY court will be inscribed on your criminal record

How long does it take me to clean my criminal record “sejel 3adle”?

If you were sentenced for a misdemeanor ("jen7a") example drug USE, then you can clean it after 3 years from the date you execute the verdict. For example, if you were sentenced to pay a fine in 2013 and you paid in 2014, you start counting from the date you paid which is 2014. If you were sentenced for a felony ("jinaya") for example drug dealing or trafficking then you can clean it after 7 years.

What documents do I need to clean my criminal record?

- A new criminal record
- Proof of residence and "ifadet 7asan al soulouk" from the “Mokhtar”
- A copy of the verdict issued by the court with a proof of execution.
You can call Skoun to help you with this process.

Does the reason for my arrest matter when I ask for my rights?

No. You should ask for your rights regardless of the reason of the arrest.

How long does the prosecution period last?

There is no specified period of time for prosecution. A lot of factors are to be taken into consideration, including: number of people prosecuted, location of people, and the charge…etc. prosecution may take years.

Can the police arrest me if I am in my house? If I get arrested in my house, does everyone else in the house also get arrested?

Yes. Police can enter your house but only with Public Prosecutor’s WRITTEN permission that you have the right to see. You can refuse to allow them to enter if they don’t have permission, but this is a common violation. Police enter homes without permissions sometimes. If the police want you, they will only arrest you; no one from the family will be taken.

I am a female, is it ok for a male police officer to search me if there was no female officer present.

Absolutely NO. It is not ok or legal for a male police officer to search a female. You should not allow him to touch you in any way. If no female officers are present, ask him to wait for one. If this happened, remember his name and report the incident.

I just got a call from my son/daughter that he/she is arrested, what is the first thing I should do?

First of all, try to stay calm and take as much information as possible. Information like “where are you arrested?” “What for?” “Who arrested you?” will help you. Consult with a lawyer. If you can’t afford one, call Skoun and we will help you. It is very important and helpful if the family stayed in contact with the police station either by calling or going there.

Can I prove physical abuse without an official report?

NO. The only legal proof that physical abuse took place is a report from a Forensics Doctor. So, remember to ask for a Doctor if you were subject to physical abuse.

Can the police search into my phone during investigation?

NO. This act is not only an invasion of your privacy but it is also illegal unless the police have an order from the Investigative Judge ("qadi ta7kik"). This means that the police, which operates under the command of the public prosecutor ("alniyaba al3ama") can’t search your phone.

I got a call from the police stating that I should go to the police station on a specific date and time. What should I do?

Ask questions first. Try to take the time on the phone to ask as many questions as possible to know the reason why are they calling you and what for. It doesn’t mean that the police officer will give you an answer but it is your right to ask.
If you go to the police station, you might be subject to a urine test. Positive urine tests will lead to an arrest.
If you don’t go to the police station, the police might issue a search warrant and you might get arrested at any checkpoint or at any time you enter a police station for any reason, like reporting a lost ID for example.

Skoun Lebanese Addictions Center
Monot street
Nakhle bldg., 1st floor
Achrafieh, Beirut

+961 1 202 714
info@skoun.org