Police Powers & Procedures

What Police officers can and cannot do in South Australia

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Police Powers – Procedure

In this section, you will find information about what Police officers can and cannot do and you will be informed about your rights in regards to police questioning, arrests and searches. The real idea is that Police need to follow the correct procedures in locating the evidence against you. If they have not followed the correct procedures, the evidence may be inadmissible and you may not be charged.

To follow are the types of Police powers and the protocols that they must follow when performing any of the following actions.

Search

For this discussion, searches will be broken up into three categories: search of premises, search of the person, search of a vessel (i.e. a car).

Premises

Premises includes, but may not be limited to, a building (i.e. school, workplace) or a house. A police officer named in any such warrant at any time of the day or night may, with such assistance as he or she thinks necessary, enter into, break open any house, building, premises or place, where he or she has reasonable cause to suspect that either:

  • An offence has recently been committed or is about to be committed; or
  • There are stolen goods; or
  • There is any evidence that may amount to the commission of an offence; or
  • There is anything that may be intended to be used for the purpose of committing the offence.

The Police must have a “reasonable cause to suspect” before entering the premises. If it can be shown that they did not have a reasonable cause to suspect at the time, some of the evidence they find may be inadmissible.

Person, Vehicle, Vessel

A Police officer may not need a warrant when searching a person, vehicle or vessel.

A Police Officer may do any or all of the following things, namely, stop, search or detain –

1. A vehicle or vessel in or upon which there is reasonable causes to suspect that:

  • There are stolen goods; or
  • There is an object, that the possession of which constitutes an offence; or
  • There is evidence of the commission of an indictable offence.

2. person who is reasonably suspected of having, on or about his or her person:

  • Stolen goods; or
  • An object, that the possession of which constitutes an offence; or
  • Evidence of the commission of an indictable offence.

Again, it must be remembered that there must be a reasonable cause to suspect.

Interviews and Questioning

Police questioning can be formal (at a police station and recorded) or informal (pulled over on side of the road). It is important to remember that you do have the right to remain silent. You must also remember that you are innocent until proven guilty.  The Police must prove that you are guilty. You do not have to prove your innocence.

It is also important to remember that often the Police do not have enough evidence against you to prove the offence when they question you. You may say something that may help the Police prove their case against you. To avoid this from happening, the best thing to do in this situation is to contact a lawyer immediately so that you know exactly how to handle the interview. It may be the difference between you going to jail and staying out.

Arrest

Police have the power to arrest people but only in certain circumstances. Police must always comply with certain protocols in order to carry out a lawful arrest. To determine whether you were lawfully arrested by Police, you should contact an experienced lawyer to determine this question for you.

Police Powers - what are the rules

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