The police have specific powers relating to searching you or your vehicle. Understanding why you have been made subject to a search can be confusing, and at Qamar Solicitors we will ensure you are fully aware of your legal rights, and the ways in which the police powers to undertake a search work in practice.
Stop and search
The police have a general authority to stop and search any person or vehicle. However, they must have good reason for doing so, known as ‘reasonable grounds’ for suspicion. Police may stop and search an individual or a vehicle for a number of reasons. This might include a belief that they may find:
- Offensive weapons
- Stolen goods
- Items which are intended to damage a property
One exception to the ‘reasonable grounds’ rule is if there has been a very serious violent incident, in which case they can stop and search individuals even without a positive suspicion that a particular individual may be concealing a suspicious item.
The police do not have the right to stop and search you because of your race or religious background.
Proof and information
The police are obliged to provide you with information before the search commences, and it is important to be aware of your rights. The information you should be given must include:
- Proof of their warrant card
- Information on stop and search powers and on your rights
- The name and station of the officer conducting the search and
- The reason for the search, including what they believe they might find
You are entitled to be given a copy of the search record. If you are not given this immediately after the search, you should ask for a copy within three months of the search.
You will not be asked to remove any items of clothing in public except for items such as a coat or gloves. If the police believe a more detailed search is necessary, you will be taken to a private place such as a police van and will be searched by an officer of the same sex as you.
Where can the police search me?
It is important to know that the police can only stop and search you in places that are generally open to the public. They do not have the right to search you in your own home, or in the home of someone who has given you permission to be there.
If the police wish to search you on your property (or on someone else’s property) they must abide by a set of rules regarding powers of entry.
Can the police enter and search my home?
Police can only enter your home without your permission if they have a warrant, or if they believe a serious or dangerous incident has taken place, or is taking place. If they have obtained a warrant from a magistrate, the police should only enter your property at a reasonable hour, and they should seek your permission to undertake the search – unless they have a good reason for believing that to do so would cause a problem with the search.
The police officers should identify themselves, and explain that they have a warrant, and why they want to do the search. Providing they have a search warrant, they can force entry under certain circumstances, including the occupier refusing entry, the premises being empty, or if they believe someone might be placed in danger if they do not enter.
There are some circumstances in which the police can force entry even without a search warrant. These include:
- To save a life, or prevent serious injury to an individual
- To prevent serious damage to a property
- To enforce an arrest warrant or arrest a person for certain offences
- To prevent a breach of the peace.
Having the police enter your home to undertake a search, whether you consent or not, can be very anxious and confusing, and it is important to seek expert legal advice to make sure that your rights have been respected.
How can we help you?
If you have any concerns or questions regarding a police stop and search, or a search of your property, you need expert, incisive legal advice. Contact Qamar Solicitors as soon as possible, and we can begin to work on your behalf, and ensure your rights are fully protected.