YOUR RIGHTS AND POLICE POWERS
When dealing with the police it is important to know your rights and to assert them calmly and politely.
It is also important to avoid confrontation with the police, as this may often work against you. Be realistic in the circumstances. If the situation gets difficult remember you can get legal advice quickly. You can get free legal advice from Victoria Legal Aid or a community legal centre.
Being stopped by police
The police have the right to ask for your name and address if they believe 'on reasonable grounds' you are about to break or have broken the law, or they think you can give them information about an indictable (serious) offence. It is an offence not to give your correct name and address.
You have the right to ask for the name, rank, station and number of any officer who is asking for your name and address. You can also ask their reason for questioning you.
If you are driving, riding a bike, on public transport, or on licensed premises, you must always give the police your name and address when asked.
If police want you to go with them, you can refuse unless they are arresting you or there are special circumstances. These circumstances could include wanting to do a breathalyser or drug test, investigating a report of family violence or if believing you are mentally ill and need to be taken into custody. Always ask the police why they want you to go with them.
Answering police questions
At all times you have the right to remain silent and say 'no comment' after giving your name and address. Anything you say to the police at any time can be used by them in deciding whether to arrest you or charge you with something. There is no such thing as 'off the record'.
If police arrest you
Police can only arrest you if they have reasonable grounds to believe you have broken the law or if they have a warrant. They must tell you at the time what you are being arrested for. You must be 'cautioned' by the police before they question you formally. This means telling you your rights in relation to questioning and evidence.
After arresting you, the police can only hold you in custody for a 'reasonable time' without charging you. What is 'reasonable' depends on the seriousness of the crime and the circumstances.
If you believe you have been in custody for too long you can:
- ask the police if you are going to be charged or released
- ask to phone a lawyer
- make a formal complaint later.
While in custody you have the right to telephone a friend or relative AND to telephone a lawyer in private.
Formal interviews with police
If you are being charged with an indictable (serious) offence, the police must tape-record the 'caution' and the formal interview. For a summary (minor) offence, interviews do not have to be tape-recorded and anything you say to police can be used as evidence.
If you are under 17, an independent adult person must be present during the interview. This can be your parent, family member, friend or other person independent from the police.
Fingerprints and other ID
The police can take your fingerprints if they believe you have committed an offence. You can refuse to take part in an identification parade or line-up or have your photo taken.
A police officer of your gender can do a pat-down search or a strip search for safety reasons or to get evidence while you are in custody. This should be done with respect for your privacy and dignity. A physical examination or an internal search of your body can only be done with your consent or with a court order, and it must be done by a doctor.
Police can only take body samples (such as blood or saliva) from you with your permission or with a court order. However, if you are the driver of a car involved in an accident the police can have a doctor take a blood sample without your permission. Always get legal advice before giving permission (see 'Taking action').
There are new terrorism laws that give the police powers of arrest and detention. These laws are complicated. They are also different depending on whether you are arrested under federal or state law. Get legal advice. See 'Taking action'
The police can ask a court to let them do things to stop a terrorist act. They can demand ID, stop and search you or your car or house, direct you to leave or stay somewhere, or take anything connected with a terrorist act.
The police can also apply for a control order, a preventative detention order or a prohibited contact order. You can always contact a lawyer, although if you are under an order your meeting may be monitored.
For more information about police powers, contact Victoria Legal Aid on 9269 0223 for a free copy of Your rights: police powers in Victoria, which you can also download from www.legalaid.vic.gov.au or download here Police Powers Your Rights in Victoria
REPORTING A CRIME TO POLICE
Attempts are being made within Victoria Police to change attitudes towards the gay and lesbian community.
This includes improving police performance and encouraging members of the gay and lesbian community to seek help from the police. If you are the victim of a crime, it is important to report it to the police. You can also complain about actions the police have taken.
COMPLAINTS ABOUT POLICE
There are several ways to make a complaint about the police. You should make your complaint as soon as possible after the incident.
See a lawyer, community legal centre or Victoria Legal Aid for advice first, especially if you have been charged with an offence (see 'Taking action'). If you have been injured you should see a doctor as soon as possible and also get photographs taken.
Victoria Police have Gay & Lesbian Liaison Officers (GLLO) throughout the state. GLLOs provide advice, assistance and referral. The GLLO unit aims to build trust between police and the GLBT community. If you are worried about dealing with local police or not happy with police response, you can find a list of liaison officers on the Victoria Police web site, under 'About Victoria Police' at http://www.police.vic.gov.au/ or contact the GLLO Co-ordination Unit:
GLLO Co-ordination Unit
Victoria Police Centre
Sergeant Scott Davis
T: (03) 9247 6944
M: 0409 534 154
Public Incident Resolution (PIR) process
This is the complaint process for 'customer service' problems, such as rudeness or lack of action. It is not suitable for allegations of misconduct or criminality. It does not involve a formal investigation. Instead, a senior officer works individually with you and the police officer you are complaining about, to reach an agreed resolution.
Ring the Customer Assistance Unit on 1300 363 101.
Formal investigation process
The police can conduct formal internal investigations into allegations of police misconduct or criminal behaviour. To make a formal complaint, contact the Victoria Police Ethical Standards Division on 1300 363 101.
Office of Police Integrity
You can also make a complaint to the Office of Police Integrity (rather than the Ombudsman) on 8635 6188 or 1800 818 387 (country callers). Go to www.opi.vic.gov.au
If you believe that the police have discriminated against you, you can lodge a complaint with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (see: 'Discrimination').