Should I accept a police caution?

Signing or accepting a caution can end careers, especially for those still at university or working in a regulated profession. A caution often prevents someone from obtaining a visa to work or travel abroad and is an obvious deterrent for employers when it appears on a DBS certificate.

Many people, when taken to a police station for the first time, or attending voluntarily after a request from the police, will have no idea what the best course of action might be if they are accused of a criminal offence.

The police are very adept at framing the benefits of accepting a caution against defending yourself in a trial. People who perhaps believe they are innocent of the accusation, may accept a caution as it offers the easiest option to get out of a police station and go home.


What does it mean to accept a police caution?

To many people, the word ‘caution’ means a telling off, or a warning. The police will often phrase it as such to make the decision to admit an offence and accept a caution even easier. Legal advisors at the police may also advise that accepting a caution is the best option available, and this may be true, but the ramifications of a police caution are huge and the decision to accept one should not be taken lightly.

First, a police caution is not a ‘ticking off’. A police caution is a legal sanction for a criminal offence that has been admitted by the offender (you). It goes on your criminal record as a criminal offence and stays there until you are 100 years of age. It does become ‘protected’ after 6 years, but this only means it is not shown on certain DBS certificates. It will still be on the Police National Computer and be shown on a police certificate for visas, as well as potentially appearing on an Enhanced DBS Certificate.

For more information on what police cautions are and other questions that clients often ask us about them, visit our police caution removal solicitors page.


Do you have to sign a police caution?

You should only sign a caution if the police have enough evidence to charge you with the offence without your admission, you have unequivocally admitted to the offence without being influenced by the inducement of a caution, and you are prepared to accept it (understanding the ramifications of your decision).

If all of the above applies, then the offer of a caution is legitimate and it is advisable to accept because this is likely to be the lowest sanction available for your offence. Should you refuse to accept a caution under these circumstances, your case may be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service and you may be charged and taken to court.

However, in some cases these criteria may not have been met when a caution is offered – and suspects are often told in advance of an interview that if they admit the offence, they will get a caution rather than having to go to court. They do not know, or are not advised, that where evidence is missing in an investigation, it is valid to place the burden on the police to get that evidence or end their case against you.


Can I have a wrongly administered police caution removed?

At Richard Nelson LLP we specialise in challenging and removing cautions where they have been wrongly administered or there is a valid reason to have it expunged from your criminal record.

If you have a caution on your record which you feel was not justified, or is hurting you professionally, contact our dedicated police caution removal team on 0333 888 4040 or get in touch online today to see how we can assist you.


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