Victoria Legal Aid

Protective services officers

Protective services officers are armed and uniformed officers who have the power to apprehend, arrest, search and fine people in designated places, such as railway stations. They also have some powers at other places, like police stations.

Protective services officers are armed and uniformed officers who have the power to apprehend, arrest, search and fine people. Their powers are restricted to particular areas, such as 'designated places' and police stations.

Designated places

Designated places are set out in the police regulations as:

  • railway stations
  • car parking areas near the stations
  • roads used to access railway stations
  • bus stops and taxi ranks that are next to railway stations
  • private land that is used as a car park or related to public transport that is near railway stations.

Powers

Within designated places, protective services officers have many powers. They can:

  • issue fines for offences like being drunk in public, swearing or committing a public transport or ticket offence
  • arrest you if they suspect you have broken the law
  • ask for your name and address if they believe you have broken the law or you are about to break the law
  • fine you for carrying a can of spray paint while you are at or near a train station unless you can prove you need it for your work or your trade, even if you did not mark graffiti or intend to mark graffiti
  • apprehend you if they believe you are mentally ill and you have recently tried to seriously hurt yourself or someone else, or you are likely to do so
  • search you, your bag or your car for weapons if they reasonably suspect you have a weapon
  • order you to move on if they believe you are breaching the peace, endangering the safety of others or you may damage property
  • arrest you if you appear to be drunk
  • use reasonable force when doing their job.

Protective services offices can ask you to show proof of age if they have reason to suspect you are drinking alcohol underage or you are about to drink underage.

They can also search you and your car for cans of spray paint or other graffiti tools if they believe you are 14 or over and you are carrying those items, even if it is just because you are in an area where there is a lot of graffiti.

You may be charged with a criminal offence if you refuse to give a protective services officer your details or if you resist them while they are carrying out their lawful duties.

You have a right to ask a protective services officer for their details if they ask you for your name and address.

Powers at police stations

If you are in or near a police station, protective service officers can ask you why you are there. If they do not think you have a legitimate reason for being there, they can then ask for your name and address.

A legitimate reason can be:

  • asking the police for help
  • reporting a crime
  • giving information to the police
  • being required to be at a police station. For example, it is part of your bail conditions.

Near a police station includes areas next to a police station. For example, a car park or out the front.

A police officer or protective services officer can ask you to leave or stay away if they believe two things:

  • you do not have a legitimate reason for being there
  • this is necessary to preserve the peace or maintain the security of the police station.

Police can give you a written direction to stay away from the police station for up to seven days. You must follow this unless you later do have a legitimate reason to return.

Protective service officers can remove, arrest or fine you five penalty units if you:

  • do not answer these questions
  • do not leave and stay away when asked or directed
  • try to stop a police officer or protective service officer carrying out these duties
  • try to stop someone from going into or leaving the police station.

If a protective service officer arrests you, they must hand you over to a police officer as soon as reasonably possible.

Get legal help if:

  • you have a reason to be at a police station, but police or protective service officers asked you to leave or to stay away
  • you think you have been treated badly by the police or protective service officers when you have been near or in a police station.

Other support

Find out how you can get other support for public transport offences.

Publications and resources

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.

We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at www.legalaid.vic.gov.au

Reviewed 25 January 2023

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