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Know your rights: A guide to interacting with police in Queensland

  • Hounsell Cunningham Criminal Defence Lawyers
  • April 2, 2019

Your rights are important. If you are ever in trouble with the police it’s important that you seek legal advice immediately. This is because anything you say may be used against you in court. So, it’s central to your defence and to the way your matter is dealt with to ensure that you know what you do and do not have to say.

The first thing that you need to know is that you have the right to remain silent. This applies whether you have been arrested by police, or whether they have stopped you in the street for questioning. This right to silence refers to the right to refuse to answer questions beyond the basic ones which you are obliged to answer. In most cases, you are obliged to tell police:

  • Your name and address
  • Your date of birth and the place you were born (if you are being asked questions about a drug-related matter)

If you are a witness to an accident, or if police have a reasonable suspicion that you have broken traffic laws, then the police have a broad power to gather information. In some cases, you might think you have to answer something, but you are unsure. In this case, get legal advice. You have the right to legal representation, so just inform police that you are not comfortable answering any questions until you have legal representation or advice.

Tips for interacting with police

The police can approach you at any time and can ask you questions, but you do not have to answer the questions beyond telling them your correct name and address.

  • Find out why police want to talk to you. You could say something like, “what are you questioning me about?” Make a note of what the police say and try to record the names of any witnesses to the questioning if you can.
  • Police powers increase if there is a reasonable suspicion that you are part of a criminal organisation.
  • You are allowed to check the identity of police officers who are questioning you and to record this information
  • Police can use anything you say to them as evidence and there is no such thing as statements made ‘off the record’ — everything you say can be used against you.
  • You are entitled to say – once you have provided your name and address – that you are unwilling to answer any further questions.

What if police stop me and ask me who I am?

The police are there to keep the peace in our society. The police have powers to stop you and to ask you questions in a number of situations, including when:

  • you have been caught committing an offence
  • police believe that you could assist them in the investigation of a domestic violence or criminal offence
  • you have been given a notice to stop making noise or to stop being a nuisance in public
  • you are being issued with a banning notice
  • you are in control of a vehicle which has been stopped on a road

Again, you have a responsibility to answer questions about your name and address; beyond that, you have the right to silence.

What if the police tell me to go to the police station?

The police do not have the power to force you to go to the police station unless you have been arrested. The police might seem intimidating, and they may imply that you are obligated to come with them to the station. But even if they come to your home or call you and ask you to go to the police station you do not have to go.

  • If the police are implying that you do not have a choice to go with them to the station, then you have the right to ask them if you are under arrest
  • If you are not under arrest, you do not have to go to the police station

Even if you have been arrested, you again have the right to silence and the right to legal representation. As above, if you are unsure about any questions or about answering anything be sure to get legal advice. By getting legal advice, you can be assured of staying on the right side of questioning.

Engaging with police in an interview

You may agree to be interviewed by police, whether you have been formally detained for questioning, or if you have been arrested. During this process the police are going to record what you say. It is never wise to agree to an interview without independent legal advice from a criminal lawyer.

  • Whatever you say will be recorded. You can’t change things, you can’t take things back, and everything you say can be used in court.
  • You must be warned about certain things prior to your interview taking place. This warning has to take place in language that you can understand.
  • Police must advise you of your right to a support person and/or a lawyer and allow time for you to contact and to get this support person.

If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, the police must contact a legal aid representative for you unless you have already arranged for a lawyer to be present during questioning.

Things to note when talking to police in an interview

Speaking to police can be intimidating and you may feel nervous during your interview. You might think that you are being questioned about a particular offence only to find out that the police are looking to speak to you about different charges. Anything you say can lead to more questions about different charges.

  • Your private criminal lawyer can be present during questioning but they cannot interfere with the interview
  • It doesn’t usually help you to agree to being interviewed by police
  • It is very rare that the police are going to drop charges against you based on anything that you say in an interview
  • The police can lie to you about what they might know about an alleged offence — they can make up information to get you to agree to things; for example, they could say “Oh, we already know about the weed that you have growing in Logan” even if they do not know and only have a suspicion. This is to get you to agree to this information.

Getting representation

When you are interacting with police, it is most important to remember that you don’t have to speak to police beyond giving them your name and address. You also have the right to police representation – and police have to give you reasonable time for your lawyer to arrive. You can only be held for up to eight hours of questioning, but police can apply for an extension to this time.

If you need legal representation or advice call us anytime. For immediate representation call Nathan on 0406 661 449 or get Mitchell on 0419 975 118. If you need advice call us on (07) 3180 0104 or get in touch with us online.

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