The Police have a multitude of powers which must be adhered to according to legislation.


The Police are able to arrest you if:

  • You are committing an offence
  • The Police officer under reasonable grounds suspects that you have committed an offence
  • You are hindering the peace of the public
  • You have breached your bail conditions
  • A Warrant (written authority from the Court) has been issued for your arrest
  • The Police officer needs to serve an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) on you

When arresting you, the Police officer should:

  • Tell you that you are under arrest
  • Tell you why you are being arrested
  • The Police officer must tell you their name and place of duty

A police officer may use force which they deem necessary to arrest you, however, any use of unreasonable force is an assault. It is best to submit to arrest even if you believe that you are not guilty of an offence, you will have a chance at Court to explain your case.

Anwering Questions

Your right to contact a lawyer:

Once at the Police Station, you will be given a document which sets out your rights. If the Police want you to take part in their investigations, such as questioning you, you have the right to contact a lawyer. Legal Aid Lawyers do not attend police stations to advice arrested people, or give telephone advice. However a private lawyers may attend the police station. The Police only have to wait for two hours for your lawyer to attend the police station.

Do I have to answer questions?

Generally you may exercise your right to silence. However in certain circumstances your refusal to give certain information may be a hindrance to their investigation and may be used against you. Again, it is best to contact a lawyer whom will give you sound legal advice as to the best course of action.

Can the Police take my fingerprints and photograph?

The police are allowed to take photographs, fingerprints and palm prints for identification.

Being Searched

The Police have a right to search you if they believe under reasonable grounds that you are carrying:

  • stolen or illegal goods
  • prohibited drugs
  • an item that has been used in a serious crime, for example tools that were used to break into a property
  • knives, weapons or ‘dangerous implements’
  • a laser pointer

What does a search involve?

The Police are able to pat you down, ask you to remove outer clothing and shoes, look into your clothing and belongings, ask you to shake your hair and/or open your mouth and use an electronice metal detection device.

The Police are entitled to perform a strip search if they suspect on reasonable grounds that it is necessary and it is a serious and urgent circumstance. They must endeavour to provide you with as much privacy as they can. The search must be carried out by a police office of the same gender as the person being searched.

Drug/Sniffer Dogs

If a Police dog which has been trained to detect prohibited drug indicates that you may have such drugs on your person, it grants the Police a ‘reasonable suspicion’ which is grounds that allows them to search you.

Public Disorder

Emergency powers may be invoked by the Commissioner of Police when there is either a large-scale public disorder, or threat of a large scale public disorder. This allows the Police to:

  • cordon off areas
  • set up road blocks
  • request identification
  • issue directions
  • search people and vehicles
  • dispersing people

This allows the Police to search anyone within this ‘target area’ even if they have not commited an offence and without having to justify upon any grounds of suspicion.

Moving Along Directions

The Police are entitled to tell you to ‘move along’ if you are in a public place and they believe on reasonable grounds that:

  • obstructing traffic
  • harassing or intimidating another person or persons
  • causing or likely to fear to another person or persons
  • unlawfully supplying, or intending to unlawfully supply, or soliciting another person or persons to unlawfully supply any prohibited drug
  • attempting to obtain prohibited drugs

If you are intoxicated (by either alcohol or drugs) in a public place, the police may tell you to leave the area for up to 6 hours if they believe on reasonable grounds that:

  • you are likely to cause injury to another person or persons or damage to property
  • gives rise to a risk to public safety
  • you are disorderly

As far as it is practicable, the Police must tell you their name, place of duty and their reason for the ‘move along’ direction. It is an offence not to comply with the direction. It is also an offence to be intoxicated in the same or another public place within 6 houts of being given a move on direction or being intoxicated and disorderly in a public place.

Detention of intoxicated individuals

A Police officer may detain you if you intoxicated in a public place and found to be:

  • behaving in a disorderly manner
  • likely to cause injury to yourself, another person or damage to property
  • in need of physical protection because you are intoxicated

If you are detained as an intoxicated person, the Police may release you immediately into the care of a responsible person who is willing to take immediate care of you. If the Police are unable to find such persons, or you are behaving violently that a responsible person may not be able to control you, the Police may take you to an authorised place of detention (such as Police Centre or Juvenile Justice Centre).

When you are detained as an intoxicated person, you must be allowed to contact a responsible person, be kept separately from people detained for the commission of offences, and be provided with food, drink, bedding and blankets.

The Police are able to search you and take possession of any belongings found in your possession if you are detained as an intoxicated person. You must be released, and your personal belongings returned as soon as you are no longer an intoxicated person.


In some circumstances you may be required to provide you name, address and identification. If the Police lawfully require you to provide photographic identification they also have the power to ask you to remove any face covering to allow the police officer to see your face. However, they must first ask your permssion and conduct the viewing that provides reasonable privacy and as quickly as possible. If you do not remove your face covering without special justification you may be committing an offence.

In following situations, it is an offence to refrain identification and information from the Police:


  • if you are driving or accompanying a learner driver
  • if you own or are responsible for a vehicle, you have to give police the name and address of the driver of a vehicle if it is alleged that they had committed a traffic offence
  • if the vehicle is suspected of being used for a serious offence, the owner, driver and passengers must provide their names and addresses to the police. If the full names and addresses are not known you are required to give asmuch information about the person’s identity that you know

Other Circumstances

  • if you are suspected of committing an offence on a train or railway property
  • carrying or consuming alcohol in a public place
  • If police suspect that you were at or near the scene of a serious offence and that you may have information that would assist them
  • if police are trying to serve a fine default warrant
  • if police have emergency public disorder powers and you are in a target area
  • if police suspect that an Apprehended Violence Order has been made against you they can request to disclose your identity
  • when the police give you a ‘move on direction’



As of 28 October 2017, NSW Police now have special powers to impose vehicle sanctions if the driver is a repeat offender under s 248 of the Road Transport Act 2013. This includes the removal and confiscation of number plates affixed to a car for a period of three or six months.


If you think that the police have misused their powers then you can make a complaint by:

  • Going to the local police station and asking to see the duty officer or Local Area Commander
  • Contacting the Commissioner of Police
  • Contacting the Ombudsman’s office on 1800 451 524
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