By ATOM Legal Professional Corporation English speaking lawyers in Japan

The criminal rate in Japan is known to be very low. Regardless, arrests do happen. According to Japanese criminal law, if you are arrested in Japan, there are two ways to get arrested. You will either be arrested on the spot in which case no warrant will be shown but the police must provide you an explanation or, if it is an arrest by warrant, the police will show you the warrant before placing you in custody. You will then be taken to a police station for questioning.

This article will explain what you should do if you find yourself with a criminal offence, the exact steps that will take place following an arrest in Japan, and how to contact a criminal defense lawyer. In the unlikely case you find yourself placed under arrest in Japan, this information will be invaluable to you.

First steps

It is advised that you take the following steps if you are arrested in Japan:

  1. Remain silent until you have a lawyer/interpreter
  2. Hire a lawyer (better an English-speaking one) or request a court-appointed lawyer*
  3. Notify your embassy 
  4. Request an interpreter if you don’t speak Japanese

Note that, according to Article 78.1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the accused under subpoena or detention may make a request to the court, the penal institution warden or his/her deputy for appointment of counsel, and you may specify an attorney, legal professional corporation or bar association. If you already have counsel then this will not apply to you. 


According to Article 198.2 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, you are required to be notified that you are not required to make a statement against your will. Note that if you are brought in as a suspect for a case but have not been arrested, then you are not required to participate in an interrogation and can leave whenever you want. If you are not permitted to leave, this is illegal and you should contact an attorney.

Types of arrests

There are three types of arrest: a normal arrest, arrest for flagrant offenses, and emergency arrest. Read below to learn about each type. 

Normal arrest (Article 199.1, Code of Criminal Procedure): This arrest takes place when there is sufficient probable cause to suspect that an offense has been committed by you. An arrest warrant must be issued in advance by a judge. For cases in which the offense is punishable by a fine (not exceeding 300,000 yen), misdemeanor imprisonment without work, or a petty fine, then you will only be arrested if you have no fixed dwelling or you fail to make your court appearance without justifiable grounds.

Arrest for flagrant offenses (Article 213, Code of Criminal Procedure): For flagrant offenses, you may be arrested without a warrant. A flagrant offense involves knowingly committing a crime, whereas a serious or a very serious violation typically involves only accidental or negligent conduct. 

Emergency arrest (Article 210.1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure): If there are sufficient grounds to suspect that you have committed a crime punishable by death or life imprisonment, or due to urgency an arrest warrant cannot be obtained from a judge, you may be arrested after being notified of the reason by the arresting officer. In such cases, the procedure for obtaining an arrest warrant from a judge shall be taken immediately. If an arrest warrant is not issued, you will be released immediately.

After the arrest

After being informed of the essential facts of the suspected crime and that you may appoint a lawyer, you will be given the chance to provide an explanation. Following this, you will be immediately released if it is believed to be no longer necessary to detain you, or if it is determined necessary to keep you detained, then you will be referred to a public prosecutor within 48 hours of your arrest (Article 205.1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).

When you are received by a public prosecutor, the same procedure will take place whereby you will be given the chance to issue an explanation and the prosecutor will decide to either release you or, if it is still determined necessary to detain you, request a judge to detain you within 24 hours of receiving you (Article 208.1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).

Note that, when a public prosecutor has not instituted prosecution against you regarding a case in which you were detained within ten days of the request for detention, you will be immediately released.


When you are arrested for a criminal offence in Japan, you can be held for a maximum of 23 days. Following this, the prosecutor will either proceed with prosecution or drop the case.

If the case is prosecuted, you can remain detained until the criminal trial is completed. Bail is possible after prosecution and it will be set depending on your income and assets; however, if the judge thinks you might flee or destroy evidence, then bail will not be granted. 

You are allowed to call an attorney, but if you need an English-speaking attorney then it’s up to you to find one. Foreign embassies can intercede very little on behalf of their citizens as there are limits on what they can do, and no embassy can get you out of jail.

Contact an English-speaking lawyer

It is absolutely imperative that you contact an English-speaking lawyer if you are arrested in Japan. Remember that the police may not allow you to search for a lawyer after arrest, so it is best to try and memorize the phone number. Your lawyer will try to get you released as soon as possible and will be an invaluable asset to you throughout the extent of the arrest and prosecution.

This page is intended to be used for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for obtaining professional legal advice.

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