In general, you have the right to silence. This means that you do not have to answer any questions the police ask you. It can be a good idea to use this right, because what you say to the police, no matter when or where, could be used against you.
However, there are times when the law says that you must tell police:
- your name and address
- your reason for being in or near a police station.
You can tell the police you want to speak with a lawyer before you answer any other questions.
Giving your name and address
The police do not have the right to demand your name or address without a reason. Generally, a police officer can only ask you to give your name and address if they believe you:
For example, a police officer can ask you for your name and address if they believe you bought alcohol and you are under 18.
Other times the police can ask for your name and address if:
- you are driving a vehicle or boat and a police officer signals for you to stop. You must stop and show the police officer your licence or permit
- you are on the tram, train, bus or on public transport property ( and can also ask for your name and address)
- you are in a hotel or licensed premises (staff can also ask your age)
- they believe you have information that could help them investigate an . They must tell you what offence they think you can help them investigate.
The police must tell you why they want your details. If they do not give you a reason, you should ask for it.
It is an offence to refuse to give police your name and address, or to give police a false name and address, if they have a lawful reason to ask you for your details.
Answering other questions
If you are not near a police station, police may want to ask you more questions after they ask for your name and address. They may start by questioning you as a . Then they may question you as a . The police should tell you if they think you are a suspect in a criminal offence. They will tell you your rights before they question you.
Whether they question you as a witness or a suspect, you do not have to answer any other questions. You have the right to be silent. If the police officer tells you that you are breaking the law by refusing to tell them information, ask to speak with a .
What you say could be used as evidence
There is no such thing as speaking ‘off the record’. Anything you say to a police officer may be used by them to or charge you. The police could use the things you said as in court to show that you broke the law.
Being asked to move on from a public place
In some situations police can direct you to leave a public place if they suspect you are:
- disrupting or are likely to disrupt the peace
- behaving in a way that may be dangerous to public safety
- likely to cause injury or damage to property.
They do not have to do this in writing, they can just tell everyone to move on. They can also ask you for your name and address if they are going to give you a direction to move on.
Police cannot direct you to move on if you are demonstrating about a political issue or taking part in employment strike action.
What happens if you do not move on
If an officer gives a direction, you have to stay away from that place for up to 24 hours. If you refuse to move on or stay away from the area without a reasonable excuse, the police can issue an on-the-spot fine of .
There are different rules for being asked to leave a police station.
If you are at or near a police station
If you are at or near a police station police can ask you why you are there. If the police do not think you have a legitimate reason for being there, they can also ask you for your name and address. Legitimate reasons for being at a police station include:
- 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.
A police and 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.
Get legal help if:
- you have a reason to go to a police station but police have asked you to stay away
- you think you have been treated badly by police or protective service officers in or around a police station.
Going to the police station with police
- when you are driving and they want to do a breathalyser or drug test
- they are investigating a report of
- they believe and need to be taken into .
Always ask why they want you to go with them. If you ask the police, they must also give you their name, police station and rank. You can ask for this in writing.
Making a statement
If you are a suspect
You do not have to make a statement. If you choose to make a statement, the police may charge you on the basis of what you say in it. Police will charge people when they believe there is evidence to show that the person broke the law. Sometimes the only evidence against you is what you said in your statement or in the record of your interview.
If you witness a crime
Signing the statement
You can also change the statement before you sign it.
Getting police details
If a police officer asks you for your name and address, you have a right to ask them for their details.
The police officer does not have to give you their details automatically. Ask for their name, their rank and the police station where they work. You can also ask for these details in writing. This information may be useful later. For example, you may want to or report them.
The police officer can be fined if they refuse to give you their name, rank and police station.
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 25 January 2023