The Police’s Powers and Your Rights

The police are an essential part of our community and they are integral to our individual safety and security. Dealing with police officers should be a positive experience but we understand that it can be confronting, especially when you are being accused of a crime.

The team at DGB Lawyers recognises the need for some general advice regarding police powers and your rights when dealing with them. Read on for some general guidance.

When Are the Police Allowed to Enter My Property?

Police are allowed to enter your premises to detain someone (for a precise legal purpose under NSW legislation) or to arrest someone if they have obtained a warrant beforehand.
Without a warrant, police are only allowed to enter your premises to prevent a breach of the peace or if they determine that a significant disturbance or an act of violence is likely to occur. They can remain at your property until they are satisfied that peace has been restored.

Can the Police Ask for My Identity?

The police can’t ask for your identity for no reason. However:

  • The police can ask for your identity if they reasonably believe you can help with the investigation of a crime.
  • If you are driving a car or you are a passenger, the police may ask for your identity if they reasonably suspect that the car is connected with an offence. They can also ask you to identify others in the car to the best of your ability.
  • Failure to supply such information can lead to penalties.

What Powers Do the Police Have to Search and Seize?

The police can search and detain you and seize anything if:

  • They reasonably suspect you have stolen something.
  • They suspect something you possess will be used to commit an offence.
  • You are in possession of a dangerous item that could be used to commit an offence.

If you have been arrested or are in custody, police have more extensive powers to search you. However, there are strict guidelines relating to dignity and privacy that the police must abide by when conducting such searches.

When Can the Police Arrest You?

The police can arrest you if you are caught committing an offence, if you have committed an offence for which you have not yet been tried, or if they have a reasonable suspicion that you have committed an offence or the police consider it is necessary to arrest you to avoid you committing an offence or a subsequent offence.

What Happens if the Police Are Questioning or Investigating You?

If you are arrested, the police may investigate you for the alleged offence or for any other offences that come to their attention during the investigation. This investigation must not last longer than six hours. You must then be released (unconditionally or on bail) or brought before an officer of the court.

The police must allow you the opportunity to contact a friend or relative and a legal practitioner. This is a right the police must inform you of. The police must allow a legal practitioner to accompany you during the investigation period if you have requested it.

Safeguards against Abuse by Police

In performing their duties, police must:

  • Provide evidence they are a genuine police officer
  • Provide their name and place of duty
  • Provide the reason for the exercise of their power
  • Refrain from using more physical force than is reasonably necessary to perform their duty.

Contact the experts at DGB Lawyers for professional legal advice today.