What to do if the police stop you while riding a bicycle at night

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When you are riding a bike at night, you might stopped and questioned by a policeman. Policemen will question anyone they find suspicious -- riding a bicycle with no light on, being obviously drunk and riding a bike that looks like it was stolen are common reasons for being stopped.

As part of the questioning, foreigners are asked to show their Alien Registration or passport. The policeman will also check if the bicycle has a Bike Registry sticker and whether you are the registered owner. Registering your bicycle and putting on the Bike Registry sticker is a legal obligation, so if you don't have the sticker or if you are borrowing the bicycle from someone, you need to explain the fact thoroughly.

If you refuse to answer the questioning, try to run away, or use violence against the officer, those actions will count as obstruction of performance of public duty which may cause you to get arrested. So be smart -- answer the questions and explain the matter amicably.

The situation becomes much more complicated if you are using a bicycle that you picked up in front of a station or at a convenience store. If the bicycle was abandoned, it will count as embezzlement. If the bicycle had a key or was parked temporarily at a convenience store, it will be an act of theft. Both are crimes, which means it's likely you'll be asked to come to the police office. If you refuse, you may be arrested and taken to the police office.

If the embezzlement was done to an obviously abandoned bicycle and your address is clear, most of the time you will only be asked couple of questions and let go that day. On the other hand, if you broke the lock or the bicycle has been reported stolen, it will count as act of theft and you will be questioned even further. You may be able to leave if they know that they can call a guarantor of yours or can call you back at another time. Therefore, even though you stole a bicycle, you will not be kept in custody. However, if you have no clear address, have a criminal record or are a suspect for another crime, you will be held.

Even though you are arrested, you have the right to remain silent. If you don't understand the language, you do not have to speak and can refuse to sign any documents. Call a lawyer or interpreter.

If you know a lawyer, you can ask him or her to defend you. Alternatively, you could use the On Duty Lawyer system, where the Japan Federation of Bar Association sends you a lawyer once, free of charge. If you cannot speak Japanese, tell the police officer and ask the On Duty Lawyer to bring an interpreter with him or her.