Arrest and detention

Rules on deprivation of liberty and seizure in the course of a criminal investigation.

A criminal investigation, also known as a preliminary investigation, will be initiated if there is reason to believe that a crime under public prosecution has been committed. The investigation seeks to determine who may be suspected of the crime and if there are sufficient grounds to prosecute him or her.

Suspected on reasonable grounds

Suspected on reasonable grounds is the lower level of suspicion. It means that there are specific circumstances that indicate, to some extent, that the person in question has committed the act.

Suspected on probable cause

Suspected on probable cause is a higher level of suspicion. It means that on an objective assessment of the evidence in the case, the suspicions against the person appear well-founded.

Sufficient grounds for prosecution

In this case, there are objective reasons to expect the person to be convicted by a court. The prosecutor is the one who assesses whether there are sufficient grounds to prosecute the person.

Arrest

If there is reason to detain a person, the police may, in urgent cases, make a decision to arrest him or her. The arrested person must be questioned as soon as possible. Afterwards, the prosecutor will decide whether there is reason to detain the suspect. If the person is not detained, he or she must be released promptly. Provisions on arrest can be found in Chapter 24, Sections 7–8 of the Swedish Code of Judicial Procedure.

Grounds for detention by a court

A person who is suspected on probable cause of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term of one year or more may be detained by a court if there is a risk that he or she will

  • evade legal proceedings or punishment;
  • obstruct the investigation; or
  • continue his or her criminal activity.

A person who is suspected on probable cause of a crime may also be detained by a court if, for example, he or she

  • has an unknown identity and refuses to state his or her name and address; and
  • is not registered in the Swedish Population Register and there is a risk that he or she will leave the country.

Detention order issued by a court

As a general rule, the court must issue a detention order if the crime is punishable by at least two years’ imprisonment. When the court has issued a detention order, the prosecutor must institute criminal proceedings within 14 days. However, under certain circumstances this period may be extended by the court. Provisions on detention by a court can be found in Chapter 24, Sections 1–5 and 18 of the Swedish Code of Judicial Procedure. 

Being deprived of liberty

A person who is arrested or detained is locked up and only has limited contact with other people, except for his or her lawyer.

If there is a risk that the detained person will obstruct the investigation, the court may decide to restrict his or her contact with the outside world. For instance, this could mean that the person will not be allowed to read newspapers, listen to the radio or watch TV. Provisions on deprivation of liberty can be found in Chapter 24, Section 5 a of the Swedish Code of Judicial Procedure. 

A person who has been arrested or detained by order of a prosecutor is normally placed in police custody at a police station. A person who has been detained by a court is placed in a detention centre under the supervision of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service. If the detained person is not subject to certain restrictions, he or she may interact with other detainees. 

Citizen’s arrest

Any member of the public may arrest a person if the crime that the person has committed is punishable by imprisonment and the person is observed in the act of committing the crime or fleeing from it. This is known as a citizen’s arrest. A member of the public may also arrest a person who is wanted by the police for a crime. The arrested person must be turned over to the police as soon as possible. Provisions on citizen’s arrests can be found in Chapter 24, Section 7 of the Swedish Code of Judicial Procedure.

Seizing objects for a criminal investigation

The person in charge of the criminal investigation (known as the preliminary investigation) is either a police employee or a prosecutor. They decide what should be done in the investigation. For instance, they can decide to look for objects that should be seized. Provisions on seizure can be found in Chapter 27, Section 1 of the Swedish Code of Judicial Procedure.

If the crime is punishable by imprisonment, the police may conduct searches, for example in the home of the suspect, to look for objects that should be seized. Provisions on searches can be found in Chapter 28, Section 1 of the Swedish Code of Judicial Procedure. 

A seized object must either be returned to the person it was seized from or handed over to another person who has a superior right to it, such as the lawful owner of the object.

The object may also be confiscated, which means that it will be destroyed or become State property. This concerns, for instance, proceeds of crime and objects that may be used, or have been used, as instrumentalities or weapons in criminal activities. Provisions on confiscation can be found in Chapter 36 of the Swedish Criminal Code.

Till toppen