April 21, 2024

What to do if you’ve been charged by the police


In Scotland, if you have been charged with a crime, or the Police have contacted you to advise that they want to interview you in relation to an allegation made against you, there are various ways the situation can develop.

If you have been charged and are at liberty (and thus reading this!), the Police will either have released you ‘for summons’ or on a ‘bail undertaking’.



Charged and released for summons

If you are charged and released ‘for summons’, this means that the Police will send a report to the Procurator Fiscal. The Fiscal will then decide whether to formally prosecute you in court. If they do, you will receive a citation (pack of papers) through the post, usually around 6-8 weeks from when you have been charged and released by the Police.

The citation will include details of the charge(s) against you, along with a summary of the evidence that the Police have gathered and so far submitted to the Fiscal. It will also include a date when the case will first call in court.

If you instruct your Solicitor to plead not guilty to the charge(s) before the court date in the citation, you will not have to attend court on this date and your solicitor can tender your plea of not guilty on your behalf. Your Solicitor can also plead guilty or continue the case without plea for a few weeks without you attending court on this date. But you should speak with your Solicitor beforehand to ensure that your interests are properly protected.

Being released for summons does not involve you being placed on bail. However there is a legal obligation for either you or your Solicitor to answer the citation by the court date, either by appearing personally or in writing. A failure to do so could result in the court granting a warrant for your arrest.

Charged and released on a Bail Undertaking

Being charged and released by the Police on a Bail Undertaking is different from being released for summons and comes with more serious implications.

A ‘Bail Undertaking’ is more commonly known as being released on ‘Police Bail’ pending you appearing in court in respect of the charge(s).

When you are charged, the Police will provide you with an Undertaking Form, which contains certain conditions that you are asked to agree to before signing and being released. You are then given a copy of the form to take away with you.

The form will briefly state the nature of the charge(s) against you and will include a date when you must attend court. It will also list certain conditions that you must adhere to pending the court date. These usually include not approaching or contacting certain individuals and not entering certain properties or streets, all relevant to the case.

If you breach any of your undertaking conditions prior to appearing in court, you could be charged with further offences and detained in custody until the next lawful day, when you will appear in court.

Unlike a summons case (above), you must attend court on the date you have been provided in the Undertaking Form, whether you intend to plead guilty or not guilty. Failing to appear in court on this date will likely result in the court granting a warrant for your arrest.

Interviewed and released without charge

The Police may contact you to advise that an allegation has been made against you, which they want to formally interview you about. If you are out when they attend at your home about this, they may leave a card with a request that you contact the officers concerned upon receipt. Your Solicitor can also contact them on your behalf to arrange a mutually convenient time when you can attend at the police station for these purposes.

At the conclusion of the interview, the Police will either charge you with certain offences, or release you without charge.

If they charge you, you will either be released for summons or on a bail undertaking (as above), or you will be detained in custody to appear in court on the next lawful day. This essentially means the following ‘working’ day of the week.

If the Police release you without charge, it means that they have insufficient evidence to charge you with an offence. However, should new evidence come to light as a result of their further enquiries, the Police can subsequently charge you.

Legal Aid

Anyone in Scotland (irrespective of their financial situation) is eligible for automatic legal aid funding to have a Solicitor present at the police station during an interview. Legal aid is also available to those detained by the Police and requiring a telephone consultation with a Solicitor prior to an interview.


In all of the above referenced situations, it is vital that you contact a criminal defence solicitor, to ensure that you fully understand your legal rights and obligations and also any further procedure, depending on how the Police deal with the matter.

Call us on 0131 560 6625, or email office@jboydlawyers.com, if you need advice in relation to any of the above situations.

We will be only too happy to help!


We are a mixed Court practice, undertaking a wide variety of Court and Tribunal cases. We practice in Criminal Defence, Civil Litigation, and Children’s Hearings. Take a closer look at the specific areas that we practice in, below.

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We provide advice and representation to people suspected or charged with any crimes, from the Police station to the Court.

Civil Litigation

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Children's Hearings

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Legal Aid

We are approved by The Scottish Legal Aid Board, to provide all forms of Legal Aid funding, to all those eligible.