Arrests Without Warrants in Kenya: Understanding the Powers and Procedures

In Kenya, the power of arrest without a warrant is a crucial tool granted to various authorities to ensure the swift and efficient enforcement of the law.

This article explores the provisions under the Criminal Procedure Code and other relevant laws that empower entities such as the police, chiefs, officers of the National Assembly, private individuals, and magistrates to make arrests without prior judicial authorization.

Arrests by Police Officers

Under Sections 29, 30, and 32 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), police officers are granted the authority to make arrests without warrants in specific circumstances.

Section 29 outlines various scenarios where a police officer can arrest without a warrant, including suspicion of committing cognizable offenses, felonies, breach of peace, obstruction of police duties, possession of suspected stolen property, and more.

Section 30 empowers the officer in charge of a police station to arrest any person found taking precautions to conceal their presence within the station’s limits under circumstances suggesting an intention to commit a cognizable offense.

Additionally, Section 31 allows an officer in charge of a police station to issue a written order for the arrest of a person by a subordinate officer, specifying the individual to be arrested and the offense or cause for the arrest.

Section 32 addresses situations where a person accused of a non-cognizable offense refuses to provide their name and residence, allowing the police officer to arrest the individual for the purpose of ascertaining this information.

The Police Act (Cap. 84) further expands the scope of police officers’ arrest powers in various situations, including traffic offenses, failure to produce a license, and offenses against discipline.

Arrests by Chiefs, Officers of the National Assembly, and Private Individuals

Chiefs, as outlined in the Chiefs’ Authority Act (Cap. 128), have the authority to arrest individuals within their jurisdiction who are planning to commit an offense if the chief believes that the offense cannot be prevented in any other way.

Officers of the National Assembly, according to the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act (Cap. 6), possess the powers and privileges of police officers within the precincts of the Assembly, allowing them to make arrests for offenses committed within that area.

Private individuals can make arrests under Section 34(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code if they witness a cognizable offense or reasonably suspect someone of committing a felony. Section 34(2) allows the owner of property to arrest individuals committing offenses involving injury to that property.

Arrests by Magistrates

Magistrates, as per Sections 38 and 39 of the CPC, have the authority to personally make arrests or order others to do so when an offense occurs in their presence or jurisdiction. Additionally, Section 42 emphasizes that individuals are obligated to assist magistrates in effecting arrests and preventing the escape of offenders.


Arrests without warrants are a powerful tool in the hands of various authorities in Kenya, enabling swift action against those suspected of committing offenses. Understanding the legal framework surrounding such arrests is essential for ensuring that the powers granted are exercised judiciously and in line with the principles of justice and fairness.

It is important to note that while these powers are necessary for law enforcement, they must be balanced with safeguards to prevent misuse and protect the rights of individuals within the legal system.