There are occasions when the police may want to either search you, or your vehicle. They do not, however, have an automatic right to do either.
The Power to Search You
Before a police officer can search you, they must have the authority to do so. This authority can come from three sources:
- You have provided your consent to be searched;
- The police have a search warrant authorising them to search you; or
- A law specifically permits them to search you.
Examples of where a law specifically permits officers to search people can include, for example, where a police officer reasonably suspects that you are carrying certain items such as stolen property, illegal drugs or graffiti equipment.
If a police officer searches you without any justifiable excuse, the search may be unlawful.
The Power to Search Your Vehicle
The police’s power to search your vehicle is similar to their power to search you. They can stop your vehicle and search it without a warrant if they think that your vehicle might contain a number of restricted items, such as unlawful weapons, drugs or stolen property. If any of these restricted items are found, of if evidence is found which might be related to other offences, the police can seize the items or the evidence.
The police also have the power to stop your vehicle if they think that you need to be arrested (whether with or without a warrant) or if your vehicle is being used unlawfully.