When can police search you?

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Police can’t legally stop and search you on a whim or because they don’t like you – although this often occurs.

Police can search you if:

  • They have a warrant; or
  • They have arrested you;

Police can also search you without a warrant if:

  • You agree; or
  • They suspect on reasonable grounds you have illegal drugs, weapons, or things to make graffiti on you; or
  • For weapons and you are in a designated area. Police do not need a reasonable suspicion that you have a weapon to search you in a designated area.

Note: “weapons” can include any object which has been modified so it can be used as a weapon or any object carried so that it can be used as a weapon.

Unless you are in a designated area, police must have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that you have illegal drugs, weapons, or graffiti equipment. There is no statutory definition for ‘reasonable suspicion’ however courts have defined it to be more than a hunch, and less than a belief. Not only must police have an actual suspicion, it must be grounded in objective facts.[1]Police can use the fact that you are in an area where there is lots of violent crime as part of their justification for holding a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that you are carrying a weapon, but, outside searches in designated areas, this should not be sole reason for the search. Police cannot use your gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation (or other similar personal attributes) as the basis for a ‘reasonable suspicion’.

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