Fingerprints and body samples

Fingerprints and body samples

The police may want to take your fingerprints or samples from your body, such as saliva or blood, to use as evidence if you are charged with an offence.

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.

Fingerprints

There are different rules for fingerprinting depending on your age. See Young people and the police for information about the rules that apply to people aged under 15.

If you are 15 or older, the police officer can get your fingerprints if they believe on reasonable grounds that you committed an indictable offence, for example, shoplifting or assault.

If you are aged 15 to 17 the police officer must get a parent, guardian or an independent person (an adult) to be with you when they ask to get your fingerprints. This person must also be there if the police officer takes your fingerprints. The police must tape-record or video-record the fingerprinting if you are 17 or younger.

If you have a cognitive disability or mental illness the police officer must get an Independent Third Person to be with you when asking for or taking your fingerprints.

The police officer cannot take your fingerprints for minor summary offences such as jaywalking or littering. 

If they are allowed to take your fingerprints, they can use force if you refuse to give them. Any force the police officer uses must be reasonable. It must not be too rough. Get legal advice if you are not happy with the way the police officer has treated you.

How long can the police keep fingerprints for?

The police must usually destroy your fingerprints after six months if:

  • they have not charged you with an offence in that time
  • a court has found you not guilty of the offence.

You can ask the police if they have destroyed your fingerprints. Different rules apply to fingerprints taken of a person under 18.

Body samples

Intimate body samples are taken from private or sensitive parts of your body. They can include:

  • blood, saliva or pubic hair
  • anal, genital or breast swabs
  • mouth or dental impressions.

Non-intimate body samples can include:

  • samples of hair
  • fingernail or toenail scrapings
  • some external body swabs.

Body samples are taken by a forensic procedure. ‘Forensic’ means doing a procedure to get evidence for use in court.

Can you say no?

For all body samples, you can always say no. However, the police may get a court order to get a body sample if you refuse. A senior police officer can approve a non-intimate body sample without having to ask the court.

If you are aged 10 to 17, the police must always get a court order. A parent, guardian or independent person (an adult) must be with you if the police take a body sample.

If you are under 10, the police cannot get body samples from you at all.

If you have a cognitive disability or mental illness the police officer must get an Independent Third Person to be with you when asking for or getting a body sample.

Driving and body samples

You may have to give a blood sample if you have been in a motor vehicle accident. The police may also ask the driver to give a mouth swab to see if they have illegal drugs in their system.

In all cases get legal advice before you agree to give body samples.

Procedure

A qualified doctor, nurse or dentist must take intimate body samples, not the police officer. Where possible, the doctor or nurse must be the same sex as you if they are taking an intimate sample (other than a dental impression) or examining an intimate part of your body.

The police officer must tell you that you do not have to answer any questions asked by the doctor, nurse or dentist. They must tell you this before the body sample is taken.

Non-intimate body samples can be taken by the police officer.

How long can the police keep body samples for?

The police must usually destroy forensic samples after 12 months if:

  • they have not charged you with an offence in that time
  • a court has found you not guilty of the offence.

Get help

Find out how you can get help dealing with police.