Dealing with Victoria Police

Dealing with Victoria Police – Do You Know Your Rights?

It can be intimidating to deal with the police. It is important to know your rights if you are pulled over by police or ever asked to attend an interview. Here are some important things you need to know about before dealing with a Victoria police officer.

Your rights and obligations

If you are approached by Victoria police

The most important thing to remember is: you have a right to silence. This means you are not obliged to answer any questions outside of basic identification questions.

The police cannot hold your silence against you. You will not be seen as being uncooperative if you insist on exercising your right to silence.

Basic identification questions

In some instances, you are obliged to give Victoria police your name, address and identification (e.g. drivers licence). You must do this if:

  • You are pulled over for a traffic offence;
  • You are undergoing a breath test;
  • You are suspected of or caught committing a crime;
  • You may be of help to the police with an investigation; and
  • You are in a place that sells alcohol.

You should ask the police why they want your name and address. The police must tell you the reason for the request and what crime you are suspected of committing.

Your rights when it comes to Victoria police search and seizure

To read about police entry, search and seizure rights, see: Police Search and Seize Powers – Do You Know Your Rights?

If you attend a police interview

You do not need to accompany the police to the police station for further questioning unless:

  • You have just undergone a breath test; or
  • You have been arrested.

Remember again, you have a right to silence. To exercise this you should respond with “no comment”. If you do answer any question, or say anything to a police officer or in a police station (including to another person in custody), your response may be used against you in evidence before court.

If you are arrested

If you have been arrested, you have the right to make two phone calls. The first should be to a lawyer, the second should be to a family member or friend. Ask for these phone calls as soon as the police cautions you.

The police can keep you detained for a “reasonable time” without a court hearing. This usually means 48 hours but may be longer in some circumstances (e.g. you are detained over a long weekend and the court is closed). If the police wish to detain you for longer than a reasonable time, they must bring you before the Magistrates Court and get court approval.

If you are charged with an indictable offence (serious offence), the police must record your full interview by video or tape. This includes the caution, all questions asked and any answers given. Otherwise, the police may not be able to submit the interview to court later on as evidence, and you can challenge them if they try. The police must provide you with a copy of the interview afterwards. You should give this copy to your lawyer when you receive it.

If you are an Indigenous Australian

There are special guidelines the police must follow when dealing with an Indigenous Australian. For example, the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and an Aboriginal Community Justice Panel must be contacted if you are an Indigenous Australian and you are arrested.

You should tell police you are an Indigenous Australian as soon as possible.

Victoria police obligations

If you are approached by Victoria police

The police have to identify themselves when asked. You should ask the police for their name, rank and station. Write this down in case you need to lodge a complaint against a particular police officer later on.

If you are arrested

The first thing police must do is caution you. A police caution reminds you of your right to silence, your right to contact a lawyer and relative, and asks you if you understand your rights.

Complaining about Victoria police conduct

You should always be polite when dealing with the police. Always appear cooperative and do not aggravate them. Answer any questions asked (or say “no comment” if you wish to exercise your right to silence) even if you believe the police officer is exceeding their power.

If you believe a Victoria police officer has exceeded their power, you should ask for the officer’s name, rank and station and use this to complain about their behaviour afterwards. You can make a complaint to:

  • Victoria Ombudsman;
  • Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC);
  • Ethical Standards Department of Victoria Police.

You can also bring up your complaint when you appear before the Magistrates’ Court. You should discuss this with your lawyer first. Ask your lawyer whether it is wise to alert the Magistrate about your complaint, and if so, when to bring up the complaint, and what to tell the Magistrate when you bring up your complaint.

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