Search Warrants: When are they needed?
A police officer is only able to remain in a dwelling house for the purpose of investigating an alleged domestic violence offence if allowed to remain by the occupier of the premises. The police officer is able to enter on the invitation of a person who apparently resides at the house, but is not entitled to remain if the occupier refuses to allow the officer to remain.
However, if a police officer suspects or believes a domestic violence offence has recently been, or is being committed, or is likely to be committed in a house, and it is necessary to enter the house to investigate whether or not an offence has occurred or take preventative action, a magistrate is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the police officer’s belief and may authorise a warrant to allow the police officer to enter the house and conduct the investigation.
A warrant issued by a court authorises a police officer to:
- Enter premises, and
- Search the premises for things referred to in respect of specific types of criminal offences.
Police don’t always need to obtain a Search Warrant
The Police do not require a search warrant to detain and search you or your vehicle if the police officer suspects on reasonable grounds that a dangerous article is, or has been, used in the commission of an offence.
Under certain circumstances, police may stop and search you without a warrant if they have reasonable suspicion that you are in possession of a stolen item or anything that may be used in the commission of a criminal offence. Common items include weapons and drugs.
Your rights regarding searches include:
- Police must have reasonable suspicion before they decide to search you, not as a result of anything subsequently found during the search,
- Before the search, police must tell you their name, rank and station as well as the reason for the search,
- During the search, police may only use force as a last resort and may only use the minimum amount of force to search you,
- If police do not find anything during the search based on suspicion, they must release you,
- Police must ensure your personal dignity at all times during the search,
- Police may only give you an ordinary search based on reasonable suspicion and may only conduct a strip search according to strict legislation,
- After, the search police must record details and ask you to read and sign their notebook as a record of the search,
- You may request a record of the police search under freedom of information legislation.
For more information and legal advice regarding police searches and warrants, feel free to contact our experienced solicitors.