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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.

Police Arrest Powers (Vic)


Police can arrest a person for a range of reasons in a range of situations. These arrest powers in Victoria are contained in the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 and the Crimes Act 1958.

Arrest powers

Under section 458, any person, whether a police officer or not, can arrest someone without a warrant if they find that person committing an offence and reasonably believe the arrest is necessary to:

  • ensure the attendance of the offender before a court;
  • preserve public order;
  • prevent the continuation or repetition of the offence or commission of a further offence;
  • protect the safety and welfare of the public or the offender;
  • prevent someone from escaping from custody or from helping another person to escape or avoid arrest.

A person can also make an arrest if directed to do so by a police officer.

Under section 459, a police officer, or protective services officer on duty, can arrest anyone they reasonably believe has committed an indictable offence or equivalent offence under Victorian law. If a protective services officer makes an arrest, they can do so only in their authorised area and they must deliver the arrested person to police as soon as practicable.

If an arrest is made on reasonable grounds and the suspect is subsequently found not to have committed an offence, the arrest will not be taken to have been unlawful.

A police officer does not have to take someone into custody or bring them before a court if the officer reasonably believes the offence can be dealt with by way of a summons or a (less formal) notice to appear.

A person can use as reasonable force, if necessary, to arrest or help arrest a person committing or suspected of committing any offence.

Entry to places

A police officer can enter and search a place if the officer reasonably believes a person in that place and that person has committed an indictable offence or equivalent offence under Victorian law, or is escaping from custody. The officer is entitled to use reasonable force, if necessary, to enter the place.

Arrests with a warrant

A court can issue a warrant for a person’s arrest in situations such as when:

  • there is evidence that the person is not likely to answer a summons, has absconded or is likely to abscond, or is avoiding service of a summons.
  • a person has breached their bail conditions;
  • a person has tried to evade arrest or investigation by police.

A warrant must name the person to be arrested, and should be read and shown to the person being arrested.

A police officer can lawfully search a person and their property immediately after an arrest, if the officer reasonable believes there may be a concealed weapon or other instrument which could be used to injure someone; or to secure or preserve evidence of the offence for which the person has been arrested.

Commonwealth offences

Under the Crimes Act 1914, a police officer can arrest a person if the officer reasonably believes:

  • a person has committed or is committing an offence;
  • a summons would not:
    • ensure the person appears in court;
    • prevent a repetition or continuation of an offence or commission of another offence;
    • prevent concealment, loss or destruction of evidence;
    • prevent harassment of, or interference with, a witness;
    • prevent fabrication of evidence;
    • preserve the safety or welfare of the person.
  • the person has escaped from lawful custody.

If the police officer arrests someone they believe to be a prisoner at large, they must take that person before a magistrate as soon as practicable. If the magistrate is satisfied the person is a prisoner at large, the magistrate can issue a warrant authorising police to return that person to prison.

A police officer can arrest a person they believe has breached or is about to breach a bail condition. The person must be brought before a magistrate as soon as practicable.

If an officer suspects a person has committed an indictable offence, the officer can enter a property, using reasonable force if necessary, to search the property for a person, any time of the day or night, and arrest that person, if the officer reasonably believes the person is there.

An arrest warrant can be issued by a magistrate or justice of the peace if the relevant information is supplied on oath and an affidavit has been supplied setting out the reasons the warrant is sought. In executing the warrant, a police officer can enter a property, using reasonable force if necessary, to search the property for a person, any time of the day or night, and arrest that person, if the officer reasonably believes the person is there. However, unless it would not be practicable, or evidence would be placed at risk, an officer should not enter the premises between 9pm and 6am.

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

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