BustCard: Your rights in Denmark

The following is a brief walkthrough of your basic legal rights in Denmark.
Also included are a few pieces of advice, which can come in handy if you are confronted by the Danish police and judicial system.

On your person
Being in possession of knives over 7 cm, or knives that can be opened with one hand, clubs, gas sprays, slingshots or drugs (including hashish) are considered a crime in Denmark.

The mask prohibition
It is illegal to use any form of mask at demonstrations in Denmark. Furthermore, the law has been formulated in such a way that you can get arrested for “attempting to break the prohibition”. This means that you in theory can get arrested for carrying a scarf in your pocket. You don’t have to actually attend a demonstration to get arrested, it is enough that the police “estimate” that you’re on your way to one. The police have at the time of writing yet to use the “attempt” part of the law in praxis though.

When stopped by the cops
You are only obliged to tell them your full name, nationality, address and date of birth. Nothing more!

Body search
The cops are only allowed to perform a body search if you are arrested. Their normal way around this is to arrest you for “possession of an illegal weapon”, and when/if they don’t find anything, they will drop the charges then and there. Even though this procedure is illegal, a court will always rule that the “suspicion” was well founded.

Women should always insist on having the body search performed by a female cop, even though the cops can deny this if they deem that it’s “not possible” for them to contact a female colleague.

The arrest
If you get arrested then you still only have to give the cops your name, address, nationality and date of birth, that’s it. You have the right to know why you are arrested, so demand that they tell you. You will most likely be taken to a police station and locked in a detention cell. You have the right to a phone call, but the cops will usually deny you this or offer to make the call for you. You also have the right to medical attention if you are hurt or need medicine. The cops will want to interview you, but do not tell them anything, remember that they’re only trying to gather evidence against you and maybe your friends. You have the right to remain silent, use it.

You are not obliged to acknowledge the charges against you, and you don’t have to sign anything.

If you’re under 18 the police will take contact to your parents and have a person from the social authorities present at the interview. This person is not your friend, he or she will most likely tell you to answer the cops’ questions. Don’t do it. If you’re under 15 the cops are not allowed to detain you at all, they often do it anyway though. After 24 hours you must be put in front of a judge or let free. The Judge can decide to uphold the arrest for another 72 hours, let you go, or sentence you to stay in custody.

It’s always a good idea to have the names of one or more good lawyers in your possession.

Ask around for names, when you’re in a new place.

You have the right to have a lawyer present at the police interview, but as long as you don’t say anything, you won’t need one. If you have the impression that the police will put you in front of a judge, then insist on having the name of the lawyer you wish to defend you, written in the police report. To be able to pick your own lawyer may not make much difference in the initial custody negotiations; because the police prosecutors usually get what they want. But it is very important to have a decent lawyer, especially at the following court dates.

If you are sentenced to remain in custody, you will be imprisoned for at least 1 and maximum 4 weeks before you again will be put in front of a judge. You run the risk of being put in isolation, visits from the outside will be scarce or non-existent and the cops will read all your mail (in and out going) to see if they can find something that can incriminate you even further. If you are put in custody it is extremely important that you don’t loose hope, remember there’s friends on the outside, working for your release. The system uses the isolation and uncertainty to try and break you. So stay calm and focussed, even though it’s hard.

House raid
If you’re imprisoned as suspect in a case, which the cops estimate has involved some sort of planning, it’s likely that your home address will be raided.
As roommate or resident of an address which is the same as the prisoners it is important to be aware of the risk of the cops showing up with a search warrant. If they are not let in, they can legally break down your door.
You should always demand to see the search warrant BEFORE you let cops inside your home. You have to be aware though, that they in certain circumstances can perform a house raid without a warrant and then go to a judge within the next 24 hours and obtain a warrant “with retroactive effect”. If this happens you should meet up in court with a lawyer and protest to the raid.
You have the right to be present while the cops perform the search. You also have the right to an impartial witness (this could be a neighbour). It is important that you use this right, as it can help to minimize the amount of vandalism the cops invariably will exercise on your home.

The Danish authorities are very keen on shipping non-Danish citizens out of the country, even for minor offences. They have been known on several occasions to arrest people, give them a warning for some ridicules misdemeanour and then deport them.

Keep your eyes open
At big demonstrations and actions it is a good idea to keep an eye on your friends and have them to keep an eye on you. Then you will be able to warn each other if potentially dangerous situations arise. It’s also easier to find out later who is arrested, and who maybe just be lost in the crowd.

Last Words
These are your rights, these rights are supposed to be respected by the police, courts and prison system, more than often they are not. Police use excessive violence, charge you with crimes you haven’t committed and lie in court. Judges will convict you, not by the evidence against you, but by prior felonies and the way you look. And prison officials will try to make a near hopeless situation even more desperate. Don’t give in to their terror.
Remember that they’re breaking their own rules to make their system work. It’s their justice, not ours.


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