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Before you panic when stopped by the police in M’sia, know your rights and what you can do

TLDR: Full video review available below!

We’ve all passed through our fair share of roadblocks. Personally, such an experience launches me into an internal conflict, wondering what to do if I was stopped.

I want to be a good citizen and comply with the police’s questions, but not knowing my rights may open me up to being taken advantage of. I believe many feel the same, but it’s not something we think or worry about until it’s actually happened.

To be better prepared, here’s what you should know about the boundaries of what police are allowed to do when stopping a driver at a roadblock (or anywhere else, for that matter). 

Understanding authority cards

Roadblocks are meant for police officers to investigate certain cases. It’s their job, after all. 

They may do so because they’re looking for suspects of crime, verifying and validating identities, curbing illegal immigration, and checking for valid driver’s licenses, for example. They have the right to check your information.

Before going into the different scenarios of getting stopped and what you can do in each one, it’s important to understand the different ranks of police through their authority cards.

There are three: red, blue, and yellow.

  • Red – The policeman has been suspended. They have no right to ask you to do anything. 
  • Blue – You’re speaking to an inspector or someone of a higher rank. This allows them to carry out most commands, but more on this later.
  • Yellow – They’re below the rank of an inspector, and can only carry out certain commands on their own. The rest must be overseen by an inspector or higher-ranked officer.

What you can do in these situations

1. You are stopped by a police out of uniform or plain-clothed police.

You may ask for their authority card. If it’s red, you can leave since they’re a suspended officer. If it’s blue or yellow, you can hear them out.

2. They ask you questions about your identity, such as name, IC number, address, and occupation

You are obliged to provide your IC and driving license. If you fail to provide your IC during the inspection, you may be fined, arrested without a warrant, or face both penalties.

If you’re unable to show your driving license or it has expired, you will get a summons to be paid within two months.

3. If they ask more questions outside of identification purposes

You can note the police’s name, authority ID number, and their vehicle’s plate number. Otherwise, you could politely ask, “Am I under arrest?”

4. If they arrest you

You should ask what offence you’re being arrested for, and which police station they’re taking you to.

You’re not allowed to resist an arrest, but it’s unlawful if you don’t know the reason for it. 

If you do resist, the police can use reasonable force to make you cooperate. Once you’re at the police station, you have the right to make one call.

5. If you’re not being arrested

You can refuse to go to the police station or anywhere else assigned.

6. If you’re simply a potential witness that they cannot arrest

Refusing to cooperate in providing more info is an offence.

The police can then issue a formal order in writing signed by an investigating officer to ask you to cooperate, or request the Magistrate to issue a warrant against you to cooperate.

You’re allowed to ask for a lawyer’s accompaniment when you are being investigated, as the police may take down your answers.

These situations are non-exhaustive, and there may be specific, additional consequences or fines if you break the law under some circumstances.

The police are also subject to certain boundaries 

While the police can ask you to stop at the roadblock, they are subject to several boundaries of what they can and can’t do as well.

Police officers have the power to stop and search vehicles as well as the passengers inside. They are also permitted to conduct body searches without an arrest if they believe you are hiding illegal things.

However, only female officers are allowed to search women.

In any case, body searches may only be done in the presence of an inspector or higher-ranked officer.

During these body checks, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t allow police officers to put their hands in your pockets or clothes.

Instead, you can offer to empty your pockets by yourself and present the objects clearly.

If an officer threatens, assaults, or harasses you with inappropriate commands, you’re allowed to protest and lodge a report after the incident. 

You can also record the interaction on your phone, which will be helpful as evidence.

Remembering the police officer’s details and location will also be helpful.

There are no laws preventing you from recording police officers during a stop, but there are a few conditions when doing so:

Once reported, action can be taken against them under Section 509 or 354 of the Penal Code.

Preparedness is always a good idea

It’s always a good idea to be prepared and here are some of the ways you can do this:

  1. Make a copy of The Redbook by the Malaysian Bar. It is a cheat sheet containing all your basic rights as a Malaysian citizen. 
  2. Be familiar with the viable reasons for arrest, such as being drunk or high in public, if you break any provincial or city bylaws, or if you breach the “peace”.
  3. Do not panic when being stopped by the police, and follow instructions calmly.

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Just remember what your rights are so that you know exactly when a police officer is crossing a line. As long as the police themselves are aligned with the laws we mentioned earlier, then there’s no reason why we shouldn’t cooperate.

To watch the full video on the matter, check it out below:

  • Read other road safety-related articles we’ve written here.


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