Search powers

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  • In a designated area a police officer/PSO:

  • can stop and search you, your things, or your vehicle for weapons;
  • can search you without a warrant or a reasonable belief that you are carrying a weapon;
  • can detain you or your vehicle for as long as is reasonably necessary to conduct the search;
  • can search any vehicle if there is a person on or in the vehicle;
  • must conduct the least invasive search possible in the circumstances. (sections 10G and 10H CW Act).

Before a search:

  • Police must give you a search notice;
  • If asked, the police officer must tell you their name, rank and station;
  • If asked, they must write this down; and
  • If they are not in uniform they must produce their identification (section 10I CW Act).

After a search, a police officer can take any item they reasonably suspect is a weapon. If they later decide it is not a weapon, they must return it (section 10J).

They can also take anything they find that is illegal – like illegal drugs.

Protective Service Officers (PSOs) have the same powers and responsibilities as police to conduct searches in designated areas – BUT, PSOs are only able to conduct searches if police are also conducting searches in the designated area. (section 10GA CW Act).

It is an offence to obstruct or hinder a police officer/PSO carrying out a search. (section 10L CW Act).

You can verbally refuse consent for a search, but it is nor recommended to physically resist. Physically resisting can put you in danger of being injured by police.

You can say something like: “I do not consent to this search but I will not resist or hinder you.”

If you think you have bee illegally searched, or if you were injured or mistreated by police during the search:

  • talk to a lawyer as soon as possible;
  • write a statement about what happened;
  • ask anyone who witnessed the search to write a statement about what they saw;
  • collect any photos or videos of the search;
  • see a doctor immediately if you were injured and take photos of the injuries;
  • reach out to your community for support.


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