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You have the right to remain silent, whether you have been stopped in the street, have agreed to go to the police station, or are under arrest.
However, the police do have the power to ask you basic questions and in some situations, you may be breaking the law if you refuse to answer.
Some examples include:
- your name and address.
- your place and date of birth for drug matters.
- if the police suspect you have broken traffic laws, or if you have seen an accident they have wide powers to get information.
- some other questions that they have power to ask under special laws.
If you do not want to answer questions or you are not sure whether you must answer them, get legal advice.
The police can approach you and ask questions at any time, but this does not mean you have to answer all of them. It is a good idea to find out why they want to talk to you.
They can ask you to give your name and address, especially if they reasonably suspect you have broken the law. The officer must warn you that it is an offence not to give them your correct name and address.
The police have wider powers to identify you if they reasonably suspect that you are part of a criminal organisation.
The police can use anything you say to them at any time. You do not have to be at a police station being interviewed for the information you provide to be used as evidence against you. There is no such thing as ‘off the record’. The police may use what you say to decide whether or not to arrest or charge you, and this may be used against you in Court.
Going to the police station
You cannot be forced to go to the police station unless you are under arrest.
Just because the police come to your home or call you and ask you to come to the station, this does not mean you have to go with them.
If the police are not giving you a choice about going to the station you can ask them if you are under arrest. If you are not under arrest, then you do not have to go.
Even if you go to the station, you still have the right to remain silent.
What if I do not want to be interviewed?
Sometimes the police may tell you that you need to go to the station and make a statement on tape that you do not want to be interviewed —you do not have to do this. However, you may need to put in writing that you do not want to be interviewed.
In some situations, you will have to answer questions, or show the police things like identification or your licence.
If you do not want to answer questions, and you are not sure whether you have to, get legal advice.
Having a police interview
You do not have to agree to do an interview. If you are a suspect, it is usually best not to until you have received legal advice. The police will usually charge you anyway, whether you give an interview or not.
When agreeing to a police interview you should be aware of the following:
- If you say something, it will be recorded, and you cannot take it back and it can be used against you in Court (unless you can get the interview thrown out, which is hard to do).
- You may feel nervous at the interview, even if you have done nothing wrong and you may misunderstand the question or answer incorrectly.
- You might begin the interview expecting to be questioned on a specific charge, but what you say can lead to a different, more serious charge or more charges.
- You can take a private lawyer with you, but they cannot interfere in the interview.
- Even if it does not hurt to go and be interviewed, it does not usually help you either.
- It is rare that the police will drop charges against you based on what you say in an interview.
- The police do not have to tell you the truth about what they might know about the alleged incident.
You should get advice from a lawyer about whether you should agree to a police interview. LGBTI Legal Service cannot provide you with a lawyer to go to the police station with you, but we can arrange for you to get legal advice to help you decide what to do. The police must delay starting the interview for a reasonable amount of time for you to contact a lawyer for legal advice. The amount of time depends on the circumstances, but it is usually up to 2 hours. The police can hold you for up to 8 hours for questioning, unless they get permission from a Magistrate to extend the time.
What are my rights if I agree to an interview?
You can talk to a friend, relative or lawyer before your interview.
Before starting an interview, the police must make sure you understand what is happening.
- if you are drunk you can insist that you are interviewed later when you are sober.
- if you do not speak English very well you can insist on an interpreter who speaks your language.
- if you are hearing impaired you can insist on an Auslan interpreter.
You have a right to get a copy of any statement you make to the police or a copy of any recorded interview.
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples
If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person aged 17 or over, special laws apply for questioning you about indictable offences.
The police must inform you of your right to communicate with a friend, relative or lawyer, and they must notify or try to notify a representative of a legal aid organisation to tell them that you are in custody. When in custody you should be given the opportunity to speak to someone who can help you with the interview before questioning starts, and they should be present during the interview.
Generally, if you are under 18 and being questioned by police about a serious offence, you must have a support person with you.
The support person should be:
- a parent or guardian.
- a lawyer.
- a person who is acting for you who works in an agency that deals with the law.
- a relative or friend; or
- a justice of the peace.
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.