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In some situations, the police can search you, your vehicle or your home without a warrant.

You do not have to consent to a police search, but in some situations the police can search without your consent.

The police can take your property as evidence, but there are rules about when your property should be returned. If it is not returned when you think it should be, you can make a complaint.

 

Consenting to a police search

You do not have to consent to a police search. If the police ask you if you consent to a search, you can say ‘no’. In some situations, the police may have the power to search you, your home or your vehicle without your consent.

It is usually best to say ‘no’ to a search, but you should obey the directions of the police otherwise you may be charged with obstructing police. If you say ‘no’, then the police will have to decide whether they have the power to search without a warrant or whether they will have to go and get a warrant.

 

Searching private property

The police can enter and search your home without a warrant to:

  • prevent domestic violence.
  • investigate traffic offences (eg to take a breath test for alcohol).
  • catch someone who has escaped from prison or from being arrested.
  • search for evidence if they reasonably suspect there is evidence that may otherwise be hidden or destroyed.
  • arrest someone.
  • reach a crime scene.

A police officer can enter your home without a warrant to shut down or prevent an out-of-control event or to identify a person who is committing an offence in relation to an out-of-control event.

 

Searching vehicles

A police officer can stop, detain and search a vehicle and its occupants if they reasonably suspect that there is something in the vehicle, including (but not limited to):

  • a weapon.
  • a dangerous drug.
  • stolen property.
  • tools to break into houses or cars.
  • something that you plan to use to hurt yourself or somebody else.
  • evidence that someone has committed an indictable offence (and this evidence may be hidden or destroyed).

A police officer can also stop, detain and search a vehicle:

  • to arrest someone in the vehicle.
  • if they reasonably suspect the vehicle is being used unlawfully.
  • if they reasonably suspect that the vehicle is being used by or is in the possession of a participant in a criminal organisation.

If it is not practical to search the vehicle where it is been stopped, the police can take it somewhere else to complete the search.

 

Searching a person

A police officer can stop and search you if they reasonably suspect that you may have:

  • a weapon.
  • a dangerous drug.
  • stolen property.
  • tools to break into houses or cars.
  • something that you plan to use to hurt yourself or somebody else.
  • evidence that someone has committed an indictable offence (and this evidence may be hidden or destroyed).

A police officer can also stop and search you if they reasonably suspect you are a participant in a criminal organisation.

The police must follow certain rules when they search you, including:

  • respecting your dignity.
  • ensuring any personal search only causes minimal embarrassment.
  • limiting any public search to a frisk search, if possible.
  • conducting any more thorough search away from public view, if possible.
  • having a police officer of the same sex carry out the search, unless an immediate search is required.

 

Property taken by police

The police can take your property as evidence during a search. They can also take items or take photos of anything they suspect is evidence of an offence having been committed.

If your property is taken, the police must give you a receipt for those items as soon as possible. They should return your property when it is no longer needed as evidence and it is lawful to return it (eg they won’t return illegal drugs taken as evidence). They cannot keep your property for more than 30 days, unless they get a Court Order.

Where possible, the police should try and reduce the need to keep your property (eg by taking photos of the property for evidence instead).

The police may also keep your property if it is inappropriate to return it. For example, if the property is of minimal value, such as carpet fibres. If your property is not returned when you think it should be, you can make a complaint.

 

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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