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Police Searches 2021

Can Police search my body or belongings?

Police can only conduct searches on you if:

  • you have given your consent expressly or by not objecting to the police stating they will do a search (“If you don’t object then you consent” – maxim of law);
  • you have been arrested;
  • police ‘reasonably suspect’ that you have stolen property or if you have a implement that you are about to use to commit a crime e.g. break and enter tools;
  • police suspect’ that your body or belongings has illegal drugs or weapons in it;
  • police suspect that you are involved in terrorism;
  • police are in possession of a search warrant;
  • you are arrested for public drunkeness.

Before conducting a search the police must inform you as to the reasons for the search. Get the police officers details and caution them that you will be filing a lawsuit against them for unlawful search and / or seizure. Try to get a video recording of all the police officers present during and before and after the search. It is also a good idea to have a friend or relative be a witness to the search in case officers wish to fabricate their version of the events.

If you do not consent to the search the police may arrest you and use force to search you. They may also fine or charge you with refusing a search. Police may confiscate your property during the search if they have reasonable suspicion that the property was used or will be used to commit a crime or offence.

Once the search is completed be sure to file a formal complaint with the Law enforcement Conduct Commission or its equivalent in your state.

There are 3 types of body searches police may legally do:

a)      Normal search – search your bags and belongings, empty your pockets, pat down of your body and scan you with metal detector.

b)     Strip search – involves police requesting you to remove part of or all of your clothing. Obviously this is a highly invasive search. This search can only be conducted if you consent or if you have been arrested. Police must have reasonable suspicion that you have illegal drugs or dangerous weapons on your body. The search must be conducted by a police officer of the same sex, performed in private out of sight of the public. Police may not touch your body.

c)       Internal body cavity search – This is the most invasive of all searches. It involves police officers inspecting your internal cavities. Once again these searches must be performed in private not public view and only performed by a doctor or medical officer.

Searches of premises – residential and commercial

Police can only search your premises :

To arrest an offender

To prevent domestic violence or to ‘keep the peace’

There is a terrorist threat

The owner or occupier consents

The police have a search warrant

Warrants must be issued by a magistrate or justice of the peace.

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