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Fingerprints and DNA Samples (Qld)

In Queensland, police have the power to take a person’s identifying particulars or a DNA sample in some circumstances. This power is conferred by the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act. Whether the police can take a person’s fingerprints or other identifying particulars or a DNA sample and when they must destroy this evidence depends on the offence the person has been charged with and on their criminal history.

The police can also request that a suspect take part in an identification parade (or line-up). However, participation in an identification parade is voluntary.

What are identifying particulars?

Identifying particulars includes fingerprints, footprints, handprints, handwriting, measurements and voiceprints. It also includes photographs of a person’s scars and tattoos.

When can police take fingerprints?

The police can take a person’s fingerprints and other identifying particulars when they have been charged with an offence that carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for one year or more. They can also take fingerprints or other identifying particulars if a person has been charged with certain other offences prescribed by the act.

The police can also take identifying particulars from a person if a court has made an order that they may do so. If this occurs, the police are allowed to detain the person to obtain their particulars for as long as reasonably necessary (generally not more than an hour) (Section 472).

How are identifying particulars taken?

If a person is in custody for an identifying particulars offence, the police have the power to take their particulars including fingerprints. If the person has been arrested but is going to be released, the police may detain them in order to get their identifying particulars (Section 467).

The police can also obtain a person’s identifying particulars by issuing a Notice to Provide Identifying particulars within 7 days. If a person receives such a notice, they must go to a police station and provide the particulars that have been requested. Failure to do this may result in being charged with a criminal offence.

When can police take a DNA sample?

If an adult has been charged with a serious offence, the police may require them to provide a DNA sample.

How is a DNA sample taken?

A DNA sample is taken either with a mouth swab or from a collection of hair.

A DNA sample can be taken at a police station, in prison, at a hospital, or at another place that the sampler considers to be appropriate. A DNA sample is usually taken by a doctor or nurse, but if a police officer has been authorised to take a DNA sample by the Commissioner, they may do so.

The police can detain a person for as long as reasonably needed to take a DNA sample.

If a suspect is not in custody, the police may issue a DNA Sample Notice requiring the person to attend a police station within seven days to provide a DNA sample.

What happens to the evidence?

The police will keep a person’s identifying particulars or DNA for as long as the prosecution is on foot. If the charge is withdrawn or the person is found not guilty, the police are required to destroy any identifying particulars or DNA.

However, the police do not have to destroy a person’s particulars or DNA sample if:

  • they are proceeding with another charge against the person;
  • the person has previously been found guilty of an identifying particulars offence;
  • the identifying particulars or DNA are required to investigate another offence the person is suspected of committing;
  • the charge was not proceeded with because the person was found to be unfit for trial because of mental illness.

Identification parades

The police may ask a person to take part in an identification parade, also known as a line-up. You should legal advice if asked to do this. Participation is voluntary. 

Minors and identifying particulars and DNA

When a young person is arrested, the police can take their fingerprints or other identifying particulars in the same circumstances as they can from an adult. However, when a child is summonsed, police require a court order to take their identifying particulars.

When police take identifying particulars from a child, they must have a support person present if the evidence is to be admissible in court. If the child is found not guilty of the offence or is released with a caution the police must destroy the particulars (Section 27, Youth Justice Act).

If a child is under 14, the police may take a DNA sample only with the consent of a parent. If a child is over 14, a DNA sample may be taken with the child’s informed consent. The police can take a DNA sample from a child without consent only if there has been a court order and where the child has been charged with an indictable offence.

If you require legal advice or representation in a criminal matter or in any other legal matter, contact Armstrong Legal. 

Fernanda Dahlstrom

This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

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