Answering police questions, giving police your details, and what your rights are.
The police may ask you questions, but you have the right to remain silent. It may be in your best interest to use this right, since whatever you say to them could end up in court.
However, there are some situations when you must inform police:
- your name and address
- your reason for being in or near a police station.
When the police ask you a question, you can tell them you want to speak with a lawyer first.
Giving your name and address
You can’t be forced to give your name and address by the police without good reason. In general, a police officer can only ask for them if they find you guilty of the following charges:
- have committed an offence
- are about to commit an offence.
If a police officer believes that you have bought alcohol while you are under 18, he or she can ask you for your name and address.
It is also possible for the police to ask for your name and address in the following situations:
- You must stop and show your license or permit to a police officer when a police officer signals you to stop.
- A public transport inspector or protective services officer can also ask for your name and address if you’re on a tram, train, bus or on property owned by the public transport system.
- You are at a hotel or a licensed premises (the staff or the police can also ask you your age)
- The police believe you can assist them with the investigation of an indictable crime. They must tell you what offence they believe you can assist them with the investigation of.
You should ask the police why they want your information if they do not provide one.
A person who refuses to provide police with the name and address they need for a lawful reason is guilty of an offence.
Answering other questions
Depending on where you are, police may want to ask you more questions after they have your name and address. You may be questioned as a witness, followed by a questioning as a suspect. The police should inform you if they believe you are a suspect. Before they question you, they will inform you of your rights.
No matter whether you are questioned as a witness or a suspect, you do not have to answer any other questions. You have the right to remain silent. If you are told by the police that refusing to provide them with information violates the law, ask for legal assistance.
When the police ask you for the name of someone who was using your car or motorcycle, you have to give it. If you do not, the police can charge you.
What you say could be used as evidence
Any things that you say to a police officer can be used as evidence in court by them to provide evidence that you broke the law. There is no such thing as speaking ‘off the record’.
Being asked to leave a public place
You may be asked to leave a public place if police suspect you are:
- disrupting or are likely to disrupt the peace
- behaving in a way that may be dangerous to public safety
- likely to cause injury or damage to property.
They do not have to do this in writing, they can just tell everyone to move on. They can also ask you for your name and address if they are going to give you a direction to move on.
Police cannot direct you to move on if you are demonstrating about a political issue or taking part in employment strike action.
What happens if you do not move on
Unless you have a reasonable excuse, you must stay away from where an officer gives you a direction for up to 24 hours.
The maximum fine is five penalty units if the matter is heard in court.
There are different rules for being asked to leave a police station.
If you are at or near a police station
When you approach a police station, the officers can ask you why you are there. If your reason is not legitimate, they can also request your name and address. Legitimate reasons for being in a police station are:
- asking the police for help
- reporting a crime
- giving information to the police
- Your bail conditions may require you to be at a police station.
There are areas near police stations such as a parking lot or the front of the police station.
There are two reasons why an officer can ask you to leave or stay away:
- There is no legitimate reason for you to be there
- Keeping the police station secure is necessary to maintain peace.
There is no reason for you to return to the police station after you have been given a written notice to stay away, unless you later have a legitimate reason to do so.
When you do the following, police officers can remove, arrest, or fine you five penalty units:
- do not answer these questions
- do not leave and stay away when asked or directed
- try to stop a police officer or protective service officer carrying out these duties
- try to stop someone from going into or leaving the police station.
Consult a lawyer if:
- Police have asked you not to go to a police station for a reason
- If you think you have been treated unfairly by police officers or protective service officers in or around a police station, tell us.
A police officer takes me to the police station
You have the right to refuse to accompany the police to a police station unless you are being arrested or there are special circumstances, such as:
- A breathalyzer or drug test is required when you are driving
- They are investigating a report of violence in the family
- Your mental state is deemed to be impaired and you are being held in custody.
Whenever you are asked to accompany someone, ask why. If you are asked by the police, ask for their name, police station, and rank.
Making a statement
Statements are written reports given to the police by witnesses or suspects. They are your version of events.
If you are a suspect
You don’t have to make a statement. However, if you do, the police could charge you based on what you say in the statement. The police charge people when they think there’s enough evidence to prove they broke the law. It’s possible to only have what you said in your statement or your interview as evidence against you.
Get legal advice before you make a statement.
If you witness a crime
Anyone can make a statement to the police. But if you’ve witnessed a crime, they can subpoena you to give evidence in court.
Signing the statement
A sworn statement is a promise you make that the statement is true. You have to sign it under oath.
Do not sign it unless you agree with everything in it. If you make a statement that’s not true, you can be charged with perjury.
Before you sign, you can change it.
Getting police details
You can ask a police officer for their name and address if they ask for yours.
If you ask the police officer for their name, rank, and station, they don’t have to give it to you automatically. You can also ask for these details in writing. This information might be useful later. You’ll probably want to report the officer or complain about him.
Refusing to give you the police officer’s name, rank, and station can get you fined.