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When Police Can Enter Premises (Qld)

Generally police cannot enter private property without the consent of the occupier of the property. However, under the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000, police can enter private property without the consent of the occupier in some situations. This article outlines those situations.

Investigate criminal offence

Section 19 of the Act aims to ensure a police officer can enter and stay at a place to perform a police function in circumstances that might otherwise be trespass.

The officer can enter and stay for a “reasonable time” to inquire into or investigate a matter. “Reasonable time” is decided according to the particular circumstances and is considered the time required to ask questions of anyone at the place and make reasonable observations or investigation.

Serve documents

Section 19 also permits a police officer to enter and stay at a place for a “reasonable time” to serve a document. “Reasonable time” in this situation is the time needed for the officer to ask questions for serving the document and to serve it according to law.

Police may use only “minimal force” to enter a place for the purpose of investigating a matter or serving a document.

Arrest or detain

Section 21 allows a police officer to enter and stay for a reasonable time at a place to:

  • arrest a person without a warrant;
  • arrest a person named in a warrant;
  • detain a person named in a forensic procedure order;
  • detain a person made under another order such as one to provide a DNA sample;
  • detain a person under another Act.

The officer can enter only if the reasonably suspects a person to be arrested or detained is there.

The Act also allows an officer to enter the home of a child sex offender at any time to verify the offender’s personal details.

Execute search warrant

If police produce a search warrant, a person should co-operate but if consent would not otherwise be given, this should be made clear to police and recorded if possible. Any challenge to the validity of a warrant, and therefore the lawfulness of the search, can be made at a later stage.

The warrant should state the powers it grants police, such as:

  • detaining or searching a person on site;
  • seizing evidence or taking photos;
  • accessing safes, locked cabinets or restricted areas;
  • removing parts of a floor, wall or ceiling, or digging up garden or lawn.

Prevent loss of evidence

A police officer can enter and search a place if they reasonably suspect it contains evidence of an offence, and that evidence could be hidden or destroyed unless the place is immediately entered and searched. This permission applies to offences that are indictable (a serious offence usually heard in a higher court); involve gaming or betting; or are offences under the Explosives Act 1999, Nature Conservation Act 1992, Weapons Act 1990, or Liquor Act 1992.

Prevent injury, damage or domestic violence

A police officer can enter a place to prevent an offence, injury, damage or domestic violence. This law applies if there is an imminent risk at a place of injury to a person or damage to property; or domestic violence is occurring or has occurred.

A police officer can enter and remain at the place to:

  • establish whether the reason for entry exists;
  • ensure a risk of injury, damage or domestic violence does not exist;
  • give or arrange help to anyone at the place.

If a police officer is reasonably satisfied there is a risk to a person or property, their options include to:

  • detain someone for a search or to prevent violence or damage to property;
  • search for anyone or anything that may be, or has been, involved in causing injury or damage, or domestic violence;
  • seize anything found at the place or on a person that may be or has been involved in causing injury or damage, or domestic violence.

Stop excess noise

A police officer can enter a property to stop excessive noise. The police officer must be reasonably satisfied the noise is excessive in the circumstances.

Ensure compliance with other laws

A police officer can enter private property to ensure compliance with a range of other laws. An officer can, for example, at any “reasonable time”, enter and stay on a place used for a purpose under a licence. There, they can inspect, photograph or copy an item, order a licence-holder to produce a prescribed item for inspection, inspect required security measures, and carry out other checks.

“Reasonable time” includes when the place is open to or used by the public, and when someone is there or likely to be there.

What can an occupier do when police want to enter the property?

If a police officer is refused entry or asked to leave, they must do so unless there is a specific legal right for them to enter and/or remain. If the occupier believes a police officer does not have grounds to enter without consent, they should  state clearly that:

  • they are not inviting the officer in; and
  • they do not consent to the officer remaining on the property.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Sally Crosswell

This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

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