Our clients here at Lawson Legal frequently wonder about their rights to privacy and their right to refuse entry and searches by police officers. We understand the process involved in working with police, and respectfully ask our clients to follow our lead when engaging with law enforcement officers.
Our legal clients typically are without legal representation when the police arrive at their residence.
We feel all citizens of Western Australia must know and understand the limits police must observe under the law.
DO THE POLICE HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO ENTER MY HOME WITHOUT MY PERMISSION?
Generally, no. There are certain circumstances where police may enter your home. These include:
- When an officer is in possession of a valid search warrant.
- If the police officer has reason to believe a person in the house has committed, is committing, or is planning to commit an illegal act.
- A police officer can enter a home without a search warrant if they are invited in by those occupying the residence.
According to the Criminal Investigation Act of 2006 amended on December 01, 2018, caveats to these circumstances exist. These include:
- When an officer attempts to gain entry to a residence, he or she must identify themselves.
- Officers must state their intent to enter a residence.
- If a valid warrant permitting entry exists, the officer must give a copy of the warrant to a person occupying the residence.
- If the officer has no warrant, he or she must explain the authority by which they will enter the residence.
- Allow those occupying the residence the opportunity to give permission for officers to enter.
However, an officer can opt-out of this protocol if he or she has reason to believe that following these guidelines will endanger themselves, another person, or the investigation.
WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS DURING A SEARCH OF MY RESIDENCE?
Whether officers have a search warrant, probable cause, or gain entry with permission of those in the home, occupants of the home during a search have rights. These include:
- You have the right to remain silent during the search. Officers present during the search are obliged to inform you of this right. At Lawson Legal, we strongly suggest that you remain quiet while police search your residence. Remember that anything you say can be used against you in court.
- You, or a person of your choice, have the right to observe the search of your residence.
- If you do not speak or understand English, you have the right to an interpreter to help you communicate with the police officers.
Exceptions to these rights include:
- Providing officers with basic information, such as your name, address, and date of birth is required. Failure to provide this information is against the law.
- An officer may exclude a person from observing a search for the following reasons:
- The designated observer obstructs the search proceedings
- The officer believes that the observer could encounter harm while watching a search
- It is physically not possible for an observer to access a search area
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN POLICE ARRIVE TO SEARCH MY HOME?
Police searching your home is bound to be unsettling. However, the majority of searches lack the drama one sees in television shows about the police.
When the police arrive at your home with a valid warrant for a search, they will arrive in a group made up of several officers. Do not be alarmed. This is standard procedure. You will communicate most with the Investigating Officer. He or she runs the search and will present the warrant and ask to enter your home. The officers accompanying the Investigating Officer have specific duties.
- The Video Camera Operator – Statutes require that an officer must film searches. The camera operator will go through your home, recording the activities of other officers. You should avoid making small talk that might appear in the film. Officers using anything you say against you is almost guaranteed and is more incriminating on film. Generally, Lawson Legal advises clients to cooperate quietly with police conducting a search; this is not the time to make new friends.
- The Evidence Officer – Each search must have an officer who records any items taken as evidence by police officers. In addition to listing each object on a form, the Evidence Officer must list where the piece of evidence was as well as the name of the officer who discovered the item.
- Accompanying Police Officers – The police who accompany the Investigating Officer, Video Camera Operator, and Evidence Officer will do the actual searching. It is likely that all of the officers will not be in view of the camera or of the designated observer. Because of the nature of the searching, this is a normal occurrence and is not a reason to be alarmed.
- Police Animals – Depending on the nature of the search, a police dog may accompanying officers who serve the search warrant. Do not interrupt or impede the animal while it is working.
Should the results of a police search in your home result in your arrest, remember to exercise your right to legal representation.
Also, maintain a calm and cooperative manner. You have nothing to gain by antagonising the police officers. At Lawson Legal, we tell all of our clients to remain silent. The less information you volunteer to the police, the better your chances are of going free.