Police Powers

Dealing with the police can be quite stressful. The Australian Federal Police have broad powers but these are limited by legal safeguards to protect your rights. When spoken to by police you generally do not have to:

  • Answer any questions (other than those mentioned below) or make any statements
  • Go to a police station unless you have been arrested
  • Participate in an identification line-up
  • Give a DNA sample unless a court orders you to do so (although specially authorised police can – if you are a suspect who has been taken into lawful custody, and if they follow certain guidelines – order the carrying out of non-intimate forensic procedures, including taking buccal swabs and hair samples).

However, you must identify yourself to police in certain situations. Police can only ask you for your name and address if they have a reasonable belief:

  • An offence has been committed or may have been committed; and
  • They believe on reasonable grounds you may be able to assist in their inquiries.

You have right to ask for the officer’s name, rank and station. If they are out of uniform, you can ask for evidence that they are police officers. The following pages contain more information about your rights and obligations in relation to police questioning, powers of arrest, searches and other police directions.



If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.


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