QLD Can Police Search Through Mobile Phone without a Search Warrant?

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1 August 2015
Hi All!
I have a quick, but maybe slightly complex question/s about police search and seizure... I was under the impression that if, say, I was stopped in my vehicle and a police officer asked to search the vehicle (and I consented) that they would not be able to search a locked compartment (say, a key-lock glove box) without a warrant. Is that correct?

Does a similar law apply to the data searching of a smart mobile phone? IE: If a police officer wants to search my phone (that has a passcode or fingerprint lock) do they require a search warrant to search it? What about if I was stopped in the street with a lockable case (like a briefcase or a small lockable purse) would they require a warrant to unlock and search it? Would they be within their power to confiscate the entire case from me? Or is it within their power to demand I open it for them to search on the spot?

Just asking. Thanks a lot!
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Tracy B

Well-Known Member
24 December 2014
Hi Tanuki,

Police search powers vary depend on the offence you have been suspected of committing. For example, for drug related offences or financial crime, police have wider powers than your average assault.

However, if you consent to police searching your property, or the police has a right to search your property without a warrant, then they can also search a locked compartment. This also applies to locked phones and email accounts. Property or information behind locks and pass codes are no different from a readily assessable item such as a car.

For more information on police search and seizure powers, you can read: Police Search and Seize Powers: Do You Know Your Rights? - Blogs - LawAnswers.com.au. Although the article focuses on Victorian law, police powers are fairly similar across states and territories.
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