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Know Your Rights When Dealing with NSW Police

Want to know your rights when dealing with NSW Police? From being approached by police, to being questioned by police, to being searched by police, to being arrested…

Approached by Police

If you are approached by police, they will generally request that you provide them with a copy of your identification. If requested, you SHOULD comply with this request from the police and provide them with your identification. You MUST legally comply with this request in the following situations:

  • If you are under the age of 18 years;
  • If you are suspected of committing an offence on a public train;
  • If police suspect on reasonable grounds that you may be able to assist them to investigate an indictable offence; and
  • In situations involving traffic offenses.

Please note that 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 to see your face.

Police Questioning

ALWAYS obtain legal advice prior to agreeing to being questioned by police.

  • DO NOT answer any questions, except for providing your name and address;
  • DO NOT agree to be recorded;
  • DO NOT sign anything.

If you have NOT been arrested, you DO NOT have to attend the police station for questioning.

If you have been arrested, you generally have the RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT and do not have to say or do anything.

You must answer police questioning in relation to traffic offences, with the following situations:

  • You have to provide police with your licence, including if you are accompanying a learner driver;
  • If you were involved in a traffic accident, you have to provide details about the accident to the police if they are called; and
  • If a vehicle is suspected of being used for a serious offence, the owner, driver and passengers must provide their details to the police.


The police can search you (including your car and possessions) under the following circumstances:

  • If you agree;
  • If you are under arrest or in custody;
  • If they have a search warrant;
  • If they suspect on reasonable grounds that you have in your possession, prohibited drugs;
  • If they suspect on reasonable grounds that you have in your possession, any weapon that may be used to commit a serious offence;
  • If they suspect that your car may have been used in connection with an indictable offence; and
  • If they suspect that you may have something stolen in your possession or obtained illegally.

If police are going to search you, they must:

  • Tell you why they are searching you;
  • The name and station of the person searching you;
  • They should not make you remove any clothing, except outer clothing, such as a jacket. In the event that they wish to strip search you, you are entitled to as much privacy as possible, in the circumstances.

As far as is practicable, police must use an officer of the same gender as the person being searched.

Drug Dogs – The police have dogs which have been trained to detect drugs. If a dog detects that you may have drugs, then the police may have a REASONABLE SUSPICION to perform a search on you and your possessions.


If you are arrested by police, you have the RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT. This means that you do not have to participate in an interview, answer any questions or participate in an identification parade.

The police can arrest you if:

  • They know or suspect on reasonable grounds that you have committed an offence;
  • There is a warrant out for your arrest;
  • They think you are about to commit an offence;
  • You are breaching the peace;
  • You have breached your bail conditions; or
  • An application for an AVO needs to be served on you.

When being arrested, the police must do the following:

  • Tell you why they are arresting you; and
  • Tell you their name, rank and place of duty.

If it is not reasonably practicable to tell you these details at the time of your arrest, they must tell you as soon as possible after your arrest.

Police must use REASONABLE FORCE to arrest you. Unreasonable force is considered to be assault.


If the police charge you with an offence, they must make a decision as to whether to release you on bail or keep you in custody. If the police refuse to grant you bail, they are required to take you to court as soon as practicable so that you may make an application for bail to the court.

Police can detain you for up to four (4) hours after arrest for investigation and questioning. At the end of this period, police must make a determination as to whether they will charge you and if so, whether you will be granted bail.

Luisa is an experienced criminal law solicitor and legal aid approved to give advice and act on criminal law matters.

What Should You Do Now?

What Should You Do Now?

At Coutts Lawyers & Conveyancers, we have a team of criminal lawyers who can assist you in Campbelltown, Sydney, Narellan, Camden, Tahmoor, Newcastle, Wollongong & Parramatta locations in Australia. Contact her on the 24 hour emergency hotline 02 8324 7527.

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