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The police are the authorities you are most likely to come into contact with on a day to day basis. This is most likely to be where the police are investigating the alleged commission of an offence, and you may be asked to assist in police enquiries because of something you saw or heard, or you may be treated as a suspect for a crime.


A Police Constable or any other person may arrest a person in the act of committing, or immediately having committed an offence.

A Police Officer may arrest any person the Officer, with reasonable cause,suspects of having committed any offence or crime, or the constable with reasonable cause, suspects the person of being about to commit a felony.

The Police have the power to arrest and detain a person suspected of having committed an offence.

Once that person is under arrest, that person may be detained by the Police for a period of 4 hours to enable the investigation to continue.

The Police cannot keep you for more than four (4) hours without applying for a warrant, authorising your detention for up to an additional eight (8) hours. 


When arrested and taken into custody by the police you have the following basic rights:

The right to remain silent, and not to answer any questions put to you by the police (unless you are specifically compelled by law to answer particular questions or provide specific information).

The right to be informed about the 4 hour investigation period and the possible extension of it. A person in custody at a Police Station, must be informed by the Custody Manager, that the person can attempt to contact a friend, relative, guardian or independent person, or legal practitioner and ask the legal practitioner to attend at the Police Station. The Police must assist the person in making contact if the person so wishes. 


The Police will usually wish to electronically interview you if you have been arrested, and are suspected of having committed a crime. There is no requirement for you to partake in the interview by answering any questions during the interview. 


While the Police do not have a general power to stop and search a person prior to arrest, the Police do have statutory authority to stop persons and search motor vehicles, where the police suspect the person or vehicle is carrying anything stolen or unlawfully obtained.

The Police may also stop and search a person or car, whom or which the Police reasonably suspect of having any prohibited plant or prohibited drug.

The Police also have the power under the Summary Offences Act to search a person whom the Police suspect on reasonable grounds has a dangerous implement in his or her custody.

A dangerous implement includes things such as, knives, firearms or an implement adapted for use for causing injury to a person or anything intended to be used to injure or menace a person or damage property.

The search is limited to the following:

  • Scanning by a metal detection device.
  • Quickly running hands over the person's outer garments.
  • An examination of any bag or any other personal effects.
  • Search of a school student's locker. 


For less serious matters, a person charged with an offence will be released on bail from the police station. The station sergeant or the officer in charge of the police station has the power to make a decision to refuse or grant bail.

Bail can be unconditional bail (simply to turn up to court when required), or conditional upon meeting requirements about the lodging or agreed forfeiture of money among other things. If bail is refused by the police then a person must be brought before a court and the magistrate has the power to grant or refuse bail. 


This information is provided by the firm of Ryan & Bosscher Lawyers who specialize in this area of law. They are located at Level 1, 255 Castlereagh Street Sydney 2000, or call them on (02) 9266 0708

Ryan and Bosscher, Lawyers, is a specialist Criminal Law firm committed to providing quality service to clients. There are very few firms practising exclusively in the area of Criminal Defence, and with a reputation of hard headedness, dogged determination and fearlessness, Ryan and Bosscher has become a leading Criminal Defence firm in New South Wales. We are committed to Justice and the protection of an individual's rights. Our specialisation ensures provision of the highest standard of representation to any person charged with a criminal offence. Our familiarity with Criminal Law also ensures that Counsel briefed for complex advocacy matters are also highly qualified in the Criminal Defence field.

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