Dealing With The Police SA
It can be extremely intimidating to deal with police, particularly if you have been questioned or detained on suspicion of a crime. The police have been granted particular powers in order to carry out their duty, and these powers are legislated in the Police ACT 1998 and Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA)
You also have many rights that are designed to protect you – that is why it is highly advisable to seek the assistance of legal representation when dealing with police, so that your responsibilities are understood by you and your rights are protected.
Approached or Questioned By Police
By law, you are not under obligation to stop and answer questions posed by a Police Officer, except to provide your name, date of birth and address. Further, unless you are suspected of a crime, and the police feel they have enough evidence to charge you for it, then the Police do not have general power to arrest you purely for questioning.
If you are an owner or driver of a vehicle, Police do have the right to be advised of who was driving the vehicle at the time of an incident, and who the passengers were.
Attending a Police Station
You are not required to attend a Police Station for any purpose, unless you have been placed under arrest. It is generally advisable to attend a police station if you become aware of a warrant for your arrest; however, it is advisable to seek legal advice under these circumstances.
Being Questioned By Police
If you have been placed under arrest, you have the right to silence. You do not, and should not, answer any questions before consulting a legal representative. Police are intelligent and they know what they are doing, so while they will advise you of, and work within, the rights of the law, they will probably not warn you if you inadvertently waive your right to silence. Your best bet is to remain silent until your legal representative had advised you to answer. Regardless of what you may think, an early admission of guilt will not make you seem more innocent or honest in the eyes of the law.
As with questioning, you have the right to silence. Anything you say to the police whilst under arrest is recorded, and they can use this information to mount a case against you. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to have your refusal to participate in an interview recorded. No matter how much you feel compelled to do so, do not say or do anything that may incriminate you until you have spoken to your legal representation.
If you have been placed under arrest, police must only detain you for a maximum of four hours (not including timeouts), unless they refuse bail or have been granted an extension by a Judicial Officer. If, within the four-hour window, the police decide not to charge you, they must release you as soon as possible.
You are under no legal obligation to participate in a police line-up; however, they are obliged to offer it to you, and it is your choice as to whether you want to participate. Once again, it is highly advisable to consult legal representation before participating in a line-up.
Fingerprinting, DNA Samples and Photographs
By law, the police generally have the right to take photographs of you and obtain your fingerprints upon you being charged. Your consent is usually required to obtain a DNA sample, and you should probably refuse consent until you have first spoken to a legal representative.
You should never resist arrest, even if you know you are innocent of a crime. It would be terrible to be cleared of the crime you were arrested for, only to then be charged with resisting arrest! Being polite and cooperative with police, to the extent that you are not having your right infringed, will work in your favour.