Search Warrants 

Who can issue a search warrant?

A warrant can be issued by a judicial officer, such as a Justice of the Peace, Magistrate, or Judge.

When can the police carry out a search?

The police can search you, your property, or your vehicle if:
•    They have a valid search warrant (they do not require your consent); 
•    They have your consent to carry out the search; or
•    They are otherwise permitted to by law (see below).

Can the police carry out a search without a warrant or my consent?

The police can search you without a warrant or your consent if they reasonably suspect that:
•    You are committing an offence; or
•    If you are under arrest or in police custody.

The police can search your property if they reasonably suspect that:

  • Someone is about to commit a violent offence;
  • Someone is about to cause damage to property;
  • That someone is seriously injured or dead;
  • That a serious offence has been committed inside; or
  • To look for a suspect.

The police can search your vehicle if they reasonably suspect that:

  • If it is relevant to or contains something relevant to an offence;
  • That a serious offence has been committed; or
  • To look for a suspect.

A “serious offence” means anything that carries a maximum penalty of more than 5 years imprisonment. 

What do the police need to tell me?

Police must:

  • Identify themselves;
  • Inform you of the powers they want to exercise;
  • Inform you of the legal basis for exercising those powers; and
  • Provide you with the opportunity to consent or refuse consent.

If there is a search warrant, they must provide you with a copy of it.

Police do not have to provide you with the above if they believe that it will endanger any person, or jeopardise the search. For example, if a violent crime is being committed, or has been committed.

The police must also let you observe the search being conducted, unless they reasonably believe that you will obstruct the search, or it is impracticable to do so. 

The police can search your property even if you are not home, but must leave a copy of the search warrant, and a notice letting you know that your place has been searched.

Searches with a search warrant are ordinarily recorded on camera, and a copy of the search warrant video must be provided to you or your lawyer.


 

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