Searches at private premises

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The police usually need a search warrant to enter and search private property.

They don’t need a warrant if:

  • You agree to the police entering
  • The police have a reasonable belief that a serious offence will be or has been committed and entry is necessary to make an arrest
  • Entry is necessary to stop a breach of the peace
  • There has been a breach of an intervention order
  • The police are chasing someone who has escaped from custody
  • The police have a warrant for arrest
  • The police have a reasonable belief that illegal drugs are on the premises


To get a search warrant, police must apply to a magistrate and provide sworn evidence.

Once they have a warrant, police are only authorised to search a particular premises for specified items.

There will also be an expiry date on the warrant. The police must serve an adult occupier of the house with a copy of the warrant.

Police cannot legally, for example, come to your house with a warrant for stolen electrical goods, and then attempt to take your address book.

However if they find illegal things or evidence of an offence (for instance a marijuana plant) they can take that and arrest you.

See also Surveillance of Activists and What if ASIO visit

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Searches at private premises

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