Victoria Legal Aid

Speaking to the police

When you must give police your details, answering police questions and your rights when being questioned by police.

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:

  • have committed an offence
  • are about to commit an offence.

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 (public transport inspectors and protective services officers 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 indictable offence. 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.

There are specific rules for police when asking for your name and address around police stations. Go to if you are at near a police stationExternal Link .

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 near a police station, there are certain things police can ask you. Go to if you are at or near a police stationExternal Link .

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 witness. Then they may question you as a suspect. 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 lawyer.

However, if someone was using your car or motorbike and the police officer asks you for that person’s name, you have to give it. If you do not, the police could charge you with an offence.

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 arrest or charge you. The police could use the things you said as evidence 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 two penalty units.

If the matter is heard in court, the maximum fine is five penalty units.

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

If the police want you to go with them to a police station, you can refuse unless they are arresting you or in special circumstances such as:

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

A statement is a written document to the police. It is your version of events. You may be asked to make a statement as a witness or a suspect.

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 want to make a statement, get legal advice.

If you witness a crime

The police cannot force anyone to make a statement. However, they may get a subpoena to make you go to court to give evidence if you have witnessed a crime being committed.

Signing the statement

If you do decide to make a sworn statement, the police will ask you to sign it under oath. An oath is a promise that the statement is true.

Read the statement carefully. The police can charge you with perjury if you make a statement that you know is not true, so do not sign it unless you agree with everything in it.

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 complain about the police officer or report them.

The police officer can be fined if they refuse to give you their name, rank and police station.

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 25 January 2023

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