The police do not have limitless rights when it comes to searching people or their property.
Laws are in place to protect everyone – including you – from law enforcement officials overstepping their bounds. The following will give you the basics of your rights when it comes to a police search of your property.
The Police Don’t Always Need a Warrant
There are circumstances when the police can enter your home without requiring a warrant. These include –
– Handing over or serve a legal document
– In urgent circumstances, for example, injury to a person
– To investigate a traffic offence, for example, to take a breath test for alcohol
– To catch someone who has escaped from prison or from being arrested
– To search for evidence if they reasonably suspect it may otherwise be hidden or destroyed
– To arrest someone
– To reach a crime scene
– To detain someone under an anti-terrorism ‘preventative detention order’—if they reasonably believe that the person they’re looking for is on your property
But if none of these circumstances applies, and should they not have a warrant, you have a right to refuse entry to the police. All you need to do is clearly state that you do not grant permission for the police to enter your property, and if possible say so in front of a witness. Should the police still insist on entering, or if you disagree with the validity of their claims, contact your lawyer immediately.
Warrants Come with Terms and Conditions
Search warrants do not give the police blanket authority to do anything they want inside your home. The warrant will explain exactly what the police are allowed to do and may include digging up a portion of your property, opening locked items if needs be, searching individuals on the premises, or removing wall or ceiling panels. However, if it is not included on the warrant, then the police are not allowed to do it without additional authorisation. Ask for a copy of the warrant, and contact your lawyer.
The Police Can Only Stay for a ‘Reasonable’ Time
This means, that if the warrant to search your property says that the police can enter your home and arrest an individual, they can only stay for the time required to carry out that activity. It could be said that if the police then sit down and begin questioning the individual, that they have gone past the reasonable allocated time and could be asked to leave. In these circumstances, contact your criminal lawyer and ask their advice.