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Police Powers and Young People (Vic)

The Victorian police must follow certain procedures when they arrest, search, or interview a suspect. When the police are dealing with young people between the ages of 10 and 18, they must follow different rules and procedures to when they are dealing with adults. This article outlines the powers police may exercise when dealing with young people in Victoria.

Police Powers and Young People: Getting arrested

Police have authority to arrest a young person who is over 10 years of age if they:

  • Have reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence has been committed,
  • Have reasonable grounds to suspect that the young person is a risk to a family member,
  • Have a warrant for the young person’s arrest.

If police indicate they are arresting a young person, the young person must comply with their directions. If a person resists arrest, they can be charged with the offence of resisting police.

Police are permitted to use reasonable force to arrest a person.

Giving your personal details such as name and address

Police have the authority to ask for a young person’s name and address, if they have reasonable grounds to believe that they have committed an offence, are about to commit an offence or know about a serious offence.

Police can also ask for a young person’s details if they pull the young person over when they are driving.

It is a criminal offence to refuse to give your details to the police or to give a false or incorrect name or address.

Attending the police station

If police instruct a young person to attend the police station with them, the young person can refuse unless they have been placed under arrest. Ideally, you should always ask the police the reason they want you to attend the police station. Nevertheless, you must attend the police station if the police request you to do so when you have been driving and they want you to do a breathalyser or drug test or investigate a report of family violence.

Police powers and young people: searches

Police can only search a young person’s property or body if:

  • the young person consents to this;
  • the police have a warrant; or
  • if the young person has been placed under arrest.

Police also have the authority to search a young person without a warrant if they believe they are in possession of drugs, illegal weapons, firearms or graffiti implements. When the police search young people in relation to a graffiti offence, the young person must be in or near a public place and they must reasonably believe that the person is 14 or older.

Should police intend to do a pat-down search they must keep a written record of the search and the person conducting the search must be of the same sex as the person being searched. Police also must give receipts for any property they confiscate.

When police strip-search a juvenile, a parent or guardian must be present during the search.

Right to phone calls

When police have placed a person under arrest, they must give them the opportunity to call a lawyer as well as a support person such as a relative or friend. Police must not attempt to conduct the interview before giving you the chance to speak to a lawyer out of the police’s hearing.

Police Powers and Young People: Interviews

Police must not conduct an interview with a young person unless a parent or guardian is present. If there is no parent or guardian available, police are required to organise an independent person to be with a young person during questioning.

The independent person is present during the interview to ensure that the young person and the police understand each other and that the young person understands their rights. The independent person does not give legal advice. Either the young person or the police can suggest who will be the independent person.

A young person has a right to remain silent or to say ‘no comment’ throughout a police interview. This will not affect their prospects of getting bail or successfully defending the charge/s.

Fingerprints and young people

Whether the police may take the fingerprints of a young person depends on the age of the young person and on the circumstances.

Police must not take the fingerprints of a young person under 10 years of age.

Police may take the fingerprints of a young person between the ages of 10 and 14 years with the consent of a parent or guardian and the young person. Should the parent and young person refuse to consent to the fingerprints being taken, the police will need to seek an order from the Children’s Court that the fingerprints may be taken.

Police may take the fingerprints of a young person between the age of 15 and 17 if a parent or guardian is present with the young person.

If the police are entitled to take fingerprints from a person and the person refuses to give their fingerprints, the police can use reasonable force to take the fingerprints. This means that police can physically restrain a person in order to obtain fingerprints.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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