Victoria Legal Aid

Fingerprints and body samples

Your rights if the police want to take your fingerprints or take samples from your body for testing, such as saliva or blood.

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.


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 seven months if:

  • they have not charged you with an offence within six months
  • 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 (including taking blood through a finger prick) without having to ask the court if you are suspected of committing a serious offence.

If you are aged 10 to under 15, the police must always get a court order. If you are 15 or older, senior police can approve taking a non-intimate body sample if they reasonably believe you have committed a serious offence, such as carjacking, home invasion or drug trafficking. A parent, guardian or independent person (an adult) must be with you if the police take a body sample.

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.


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 gender 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
  • forensic procedures can be used to create a DNA profile. This can be permanently stored in a database if someone is found guilty of a serious crime.

Other support

Find out how you can get other support for your rights when it comes to police powers.

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

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Reviewed 23 August 2023

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