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Police powers to carry personal searches

Police have some powers to search people and property, and seize articles such as drugs for evidence, but their powers are not unlimited. There are different rules for personal searches, and searches of houses or land.

The police can search a person without arresting them. The police has the power to ‘stop, search and detain’ anyone who they ‘reasonably suspect’ might be in possession of drugs. There are 3 types of personal searches.

  1. Ordinary search - A search of a person or of articles in their possession and an examination of those articles. The person may be required to remove an overcoat, coat or jacket, gloves, shoes, socks and hat.
  2. Frisk search - A search of a person conducted by quickly running the hands over the person’s outer clothing or by passing an electronic metal detection device over the person’s outer clothing. It includes an examination of anything worn or carried by the person including examination by passing an electronic metal detection device over those things.
  3. Strip search -The person may be required to remove all of his or her clothes and be subject to an examination of the person’s body (but not body cavities) and their clothes.
  • Police powers to search of vehicles
  • Police can search a vehicle if they have a similar reasonable suspicion.
  • Police Power to search after arrest
  • The police have the right to search a person after arresting them.

Women should only be searched by a woman police officer. If no female officer is available, however, the police can request ‘any female’ to conduct the search under their direction. If no female officer is available, however, the police can request ‘any female’ to conduct the search under their direction. A child under the age of 10 cannot be strip searched.

Sniffer Dogs

In recent years, police have used specially trained dogs to detect prohibited drugs. The police can use sniffer dogs without a warrant for ‘general drug detection’, which is defined to mean using a dog to detect the potential presence of illicit drugs by smell, before the police conduct any actual search of the person or their belongings.

Search Powers in Public Places and Schools

The police have the power to frisk search you for blades and other dangerous implements (including a laser pointer) when you are in a public place or a school. The police may confiscate the implements found.

A student may also be requested to allow police to search any bag or personal effect that they are carrying and/or to search their locker at the school.

Failure to comply with lawfully made requests relating to such a search is an offence attracting a maximum penalty of $5,500.

Police Search in one’s Premises

A search warrant is required before the police can enter and search one’s home and premises. If you are the occupier of the premises, you must be informed of entry as soon as reasonably practicable. However, a covert search warrant may be executed without your knowledge.

A person executing a valid search warrant may seize and detain a thing mentioned in the warrant or any other thing that the person finds in the course of executing the warrant and that the person has reasonable grounds to believe is connected with any offence.

It is an offence to obstruct or hinder the execution of a warrant attracting a maximum penalty of a fine of $1,100, two years imprisonment, or both.

Objecting to a Search

If police want to search you, the appropriate thing to do is to say clearly that you do not want to be searched, and that you want that written down – so that the police cannot claim later that the search was with your consent. If police insist, it is better not to resist, to avoid being charged with resisting or hindering police even if nothing is found.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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