According to the Legal Aid WA website, police can carry out a search of my vehicle with or without my consent. If police can search my vehicle without my consent, what is the point of getting my consent?
It depends on the circumstances of the particular situation whether the police require your consent or not. Therefore there are situations where they do require your consent or a warrant to search your vehicle. However there are other a wide variety of situations in which they have powers to search without getting your consent first, or without having a warrant.
For example such situations may include where police reasonably suspect that:
there is something relevant to an offence, in your vehicle (ie. stolen goods, drugs or weapon)
there is a person in your vehicle has is in possession of a thing relevant to an offence
the vehicle is itself relevant to an offence
an offence has been, is being, or is about to be committed in your vehicle, or
there is someone in your vehicle against whom an offence is being or may be committed.
Or where it is necessary to:
prevent the vehicle being used for an offence
prevent the vehicle being used as get away after commission of an offence
prevent damage to your vehicle or another vehicle
protect the safety of anyone in or near your vehicle.
Police do not require a warrant or your consent to look for a suspect, or if you are under arrest for a serious offence, to ensure security of a public place or to look for proceeds of crime.
If police want search your vehicle without your consent and without a warrant, you should ask them what power they are relying on - i.e. a document or a statutory provision, but don't try to resist them.
So your question is essentially whether by searching your vehicle without your consent, you are being subjected to arbitrary interference with your privacy?
Firstly, although Australia is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is not a treaty, so it does not directly create legal obligations. Rather it outlines fundamental values as agreed upon by member countries. These values influence the development of international human rights law. The UDHR has therefore brought about other international agreements which are legally binding any country who ratifies them.
One of these is the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, which Australia ratified on August 13, 1980. Article 2(2) of the covenant requires Australia to take all necessary legislative measures to give effect to the rights provided for in it. Article 17 of the ICCPR mirrors the right against arbitrary interference with privacy as described in Article 12 of the UDHR, however such rights, even when ratified by a country are not absolute. They are subject to reasonable limitations such as - to protect national security, public order or the general welfare of a democratic society. As such, given that the purpose of non consensual vehicle and property searches by police facilitates law enforcement and the protection of the greater population against crime, any right to your privacy not being unduly interfered with is subject to the governments right to carry out activities in relation to law enforcement.
In my experience people who are looking at ways to challenge the rights of police have something to hide and are therefore not law abiders themselves. If you want to get into the principle of the matter, persons who break the law should not be entitled to its protections. If you have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide, you should be thankful that the police are taking steps to protect you as an Australian citizen from the commission of crime.