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If you have been arrested and taken to the police station, you may be held in custody in the watch-house.

If you have been charged with an offence and the police will not give you bail, they must take you to Court as soon as reasonably possible. You can apply to the Court for bail.

If you have been charged with an offence and you are going to Court, you should get legal advice.

If you are taken to Court directly from the watch-house, you may be able to get help from the duty lawyer.


Police powers at the watch-house

Once you are in custody, the police have the power to:

  • search you and your belongings.
  • take property from you (if they do, they must give you a receipt).
  • take your identifying particulars including palm prints, fingerprints, handwriting samples, voice-prints, footprints, photos of scars or tattoos and body measurements (except for some minor offences).
  • take DNA samples for more serious offences.
  • let you go:
    • without charging you
    • if you are not an Australian citizen or permanent resident they may decide to detain you in custody until you surrender your passport.
    • after you are charged and you sign a bail undertaking to go to Court on a future date.
    • for cash bail­—you pay an amount and you are given a Court date.
    • after giving you a Notice to appear.
    • in Court on a future date.
  • keep you in custody until you go to Court (where you can apply for bail).


Receiving visitors or a change of clothes

Generally, you will not be allowed visitors, except for a lawyer. Someone can drop off a change of clothes for you—if the watch-house keeper agrees. If you are moved to a remand centre, you may have visitors during visiting hours. You will not be able to access your prescribed medication until you are assessed by a government medical officer who can authorise medication.


How long can I be kept in the watch-house?

Without charge

If you are being held for questioning about an indictable offence, the police can hold you for up to 8 hours, but they can only question you for up to 4 hours.

With charge

If you have been charged with an offence and the police will not give you bail, they must take you to Court as soon as reasonably possible.

When you go to Court, you can:

  • plead guilty and have your matter finalised; or
  • apply to the Court for bail (If you do not want to plead guilty or your case has to go to a higher Court).

If the Court gives you bail, you can leave once you have signed your bail undertaking.

If the Court does not give you bail, you will be returned to custody until your next Court date. First, you will be taken back to the watch-house, and then you will be taken to a remand centre until your next Court date.

You usually will not stay in the watch-house for more than a few days, but you may be held in a remand centre for much longer.


Disclaimer: The material presented on this website is an information source only. The information on this website is written for people resident in, or affected by the laws of Queensland, Australia only. Links to other sites from this website are provided for the users’ convenience. The LGBTI Legal Service does not endorse these sites and is not responsible for the information on these sites or the use made of this information. If you have a specific legal problem, you should consult a professional legal advisor.

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