One aspect of law in Australia which criminal lawyers are often asked about relates to police searches, and in particular, what an individual’s rights are if the police wish to search them.
Queries relating to when the police can search you, what they can search, and what the rules are, are most common, so we shall try to answer these as best we can.
First, we need to outline the differences between the types of searches the police can conduct, as each has a specific set of regulations. The two distinct search types are personal search, and property search, and whilst they might seem self-explanatory, let us try to eliminate any confusion as to what they each mean.
Personal searches are those which the police conduct with respect to the clothing you are wearing, and as well as requiring you to remove clothing in order to search you, body cavities can also be searched. Property searches are those which are conducted in your home or your vehicle.
Whether the police wish to carry out a personal or a property search, you do have rights, and one of the core ones is the right to remain silent. Other than providing the police with your name and address, you do not need to say anything, and that includes answering questions, which police often ask as searches are being conducted.
Another important principle is that the police cannot simply demand that they search you, your home, or your vehicle except in specific circumstances. These include when they have a warrant to conduct the search, or in scenarios where the law grants them the right to search without a warrant.
For personal searches, these scenarios include when they suspect that you are about to commit an offence, to protect a young person, to look for items associated with a crime, or to ensure the security of public places.