The most important thing to remember when dealing with the police is that you have rights, but you also have responsibilities as well.
Keeping calm and staying sensible can help you avoid problems. Keep calm if the situation gets out of control, remember your rights, and get legal advice as soon as possible.
If you have been questioned or detained on suspicion of a crime, it can be a very frightening experience. While the police have many powers designed to allow them to carry out their duty, you also have many rights that are designed to protect you.
When dealing with police, it is highly advisable to seek the assistance of legal representation, so that your rights are protected, and your responsibilities are understood by you.
If you have been charged by police for an offence, it does not automatically mean that you will be found guilty. Police do sometimes make mistakes, they may be required to take action against a person that they would prefer not to take action against (such as in the case of false claims), or they may act with bias or illegally.
In Victoria, there are many defences that may apply in Court, such as self-defence, duress, necessity, intoxication and defences to murder. There are also many other reasons that you may not be found guilty in Court, such as if the police do not hold enough evidence against you, the police have acted illegally or improperly, or there may be a lack of witnesses. The police may have charged you with the wrong offence, or you may be able to rely on a recognised defence in court.
Police are equipped with many powers to help them enforce the law and protect the public. Police powers are set out under the legislation, such as: –
- The Summary Offences and Control of weapons Act VIC
- The Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)
- Victorian Police Regulation Act 1958
In Victoria, police have the power to:
- Question suspects for a reasonable time before the suspect is released unconditionally or on bail, or brought before the Magistrates’ Court
- Question victims and witnesses
- Ask a suspect to accompany them to the police station
- Demand the name and address of a person who is suspected on reasonable grounds of having committed an offence, or who is about to commit an office, or who may be able to help in the investigation of a serious offence, or who is driving a motor vehicle
- Take the fingerprints of a person who is 15 years or over
- Take blood samples and body samples, if permission has been given or a court order obtained
- Conduct a search of any car on a public highway if there are reasonable grounds to believe that there are drugs of dependence (e.g., heroin or marijuana) in the car, and seize and remove drugs which are found
- Search a person and any package being carried by that person if the police reasonably believe that the person has a ‘prohibited weapon’ (e.g., a sawn-off shotgun), and seize and hold, without a warrant, any weapon found
- Arrest a person with or without a warrant
- Use reasonable force in cases where the suspect resists arrest
- Tape-record an interview (audio or video)
- Use listening devices or tap telephones in certain circumstances provided official permission has been given
- Hold identification parades if the suspect agrees to participate
- Reconstruct the crime if the suspect agrees to participate