It’s the land of serial arresting.

Japan is known for its criminal suspects spending very long periods of time in detention before they ever set foot in a courtroom, a fact that was made particularly famous by the Carlos Ghosn case a few years ago. This is because of an aspect in Japanese law where people can be arrested and then immediately re-arrested once the 23-day limit of their detention is up.


The term in Japanese is “saitaiho” which literally translates to “re-arrest” but doesn’t technically have the same nuance it might in other countries of being arrested for a murder, then released for a time, but then arrested once again once new evidence comes to light. Rather, the saitaiho form of re-arresting is a systematic tool used by police to prolong a suspect’s detention in order to prepare for a trial.

For example, if I robbed a convenience store and then immediately after stole a car to escape before getting caught I could be arrested once for the store robbery and spend the next 20 or so days in a cell and interrogation room. Then, I might instantly be re-arrested for the car theft just as I was about to be released from jail for the robbery, thus doubling my time spent in jail to 40 days without ever setting foot in front of a judge.

▼ Article 37 of The Constitution of Japan does state the right to a speedy trial, but it’s applied proportionally to the number of charges against someone

The reason for this is said to be to buy time either to obtain evidence or a confession before the matter goes to the court. The prosecutor’s office will decide whether the case will go to trial within 48 hours and if so, it is up to the police to get whatever they need to make the charges stick, which may sometimes take more than the allotted 20 days with the possibility of a three-day extension. The only catch for the police is that distinct crimes need to have taken place because you can’t be re-arrested for the same crime in this fashion.

・The three arrests of four men

A good example of how this works has been going on over the past few months in Ibaraki and Saitama prefectures, involving the repeated arrests of four men aged 16 to 22. The crimes took place in the evening of 15 August 2022, when the men were driving around the northern part of Saitama Prefecture where its borders with Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures converge. 

▼ It’s a unique area where the borders to three prefectures are only a couple kilometers apart

At about 8:30 pm, police received a call from a motorist in Kasukabe City that things were thrown from a passing car that damaged their vehicle in several places. Saitama Police later determined the objects to be chucks of concrete.

At about 8:50 pm, a 2-kilogram (4.4-pound) chunk of concrete was hurled at the windshield of an oncoming car on the Sakai Bridge in the town of Sakai, Ibaraki Prefecture. The material shattered the glass of the car driven by a man in his 40s and his eldest daughter, but no one was injured.

Shortly before that, a compact car driven by a 77-year-old was repeatedly hit with concrete on the same bridge that connects Saki with Noda City in Chiba Prefecture. In total, there were seven such reports in Saitama, Chiba, and Ibaraki prefectures.

Throwing concrete at cars in general isn’t the wisest thing to do, but this was only the tip in the iceberg of problems the perpetrators made for themselves. First, they seemed to have forgotten about the existence of drive recorders, which, with the help of street surveillance cameras, got some good shots of them committing the crime, along with their vehicle.

▼ Drive Recorder video of one of the attacks


The ensuing investigation allowed the Ibaraki Prefectural Police to make their first arrests of the four men on 20 October 2022. These arrests were for the single incident in which the father and daughter’s windshield was shattered. The suspects admitted to it, saying that they did it “for fun.” It was also learnt that three of them worked for a demolition company, which is where they got the supply of concrete chunks.

Then, on 9 November, they were all re-arrested by the Ibaraki Police, this time for the attack on the elderly woman’s car. However, of the seven reported incidents of concrete being thrown, only two happened in Ibaraki, leaving them all out of arrests.

So, they handed the investigation over to the Saitama Prefectural Police as four of the incidents took place there. On 18 January 2023, the four were once again arrested and once again confessed to the attack on the car in Kasukabe City. This time they told the Saitama Police that their intention was to provoke the other drivers so they could enjoy a car chase.

▼ News report on the third arrest

It is unclear why these four have been re-arrested three times so far since they already confessed three times, and the police rarely provide details of ongoing investigations so we may never know. However, since there are four other cases of concrete having been thrown they could potentially be consecutively arrested three more times in Saitama and once more in Chiba, taking their detention time well into the summer, all for an incident that lasted little more than an hour.

That being said, the ordinary upper limit of re-arrests is said to be three, mainly because it is considered by the police to contribute to jail overcrowding and a be waste of resources beyond that.

The ethics of this practice are certainly up for debate but as it stands, anyone in Japan should be careful not to do crimes unless they’re willing to do the times, one by one by one by one…

Sources: FNN Online Prime, Asahi Shimbun Digital, Yomiuri Shimbun Online, Ibaraki Shimbun,  Horitsu Yawa, Very Best Law Office Sendai
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso
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