Police powers and your rights

Police powers and your rights

When dealing with the police it is important to remember you have rights, but you also have responsibilities.

You can avoid problems if you are sensible and keep your cool. If the situation gets out of control, stay calm, remember your rights and get legal advice quickly.

Speaking to the police

There are times when you must give your name and address if the police ask for them. You do not have to answer any other questions the police ask you.

Getting searched

The police can only search you or your property in certain situations. If the police do not have the legal right to search you, they cannot force you to have a search. However, if the police are allowed to search you and you try to stop it happening you can be charged with ‘hindering’ police.

Being arrested

The police can only arrest you when they think you have broken a law or they have a warrant for your arrest.

You can make two phone calls when the police arrest you or when you are in custody. You can phone a lawyer and a friend or relative.

Being questioned

The police may interview you as a possible suspect about the offence they have arrested you for. If you have a cognitive disability or mental illness you must have an Independent Third Person with you during the interview.

Fingerprints and body samples

The police must follow proper procedures to take these, including following special rules for young people or people with a cognitive disability or mental illness.

Identification parades and photos

You do not have to participate in an identification parade. Police must get your permission before taking your photo.

Complaints about police

If you believe you have been treated unfairly by the police, you can make a complaint.

Young people and the police

Children must have a parent, guardian or independent person with them while they are interviewed and during certain procedures. There are also rules about taking photographs and fingerprints from children, depending on their age.

Being released from custody

After being arrested you may be released from police custody without being charged, charged with the offence, or on bail.

Get help

Find out how you can get help dealing with police.