- Stay calm
- Understand their powers
- Know and assert your rights
- Take notes
- Take risks
- Be violent or aggressive
- Resist arrest
- Resist a search
- Run away
On this page
It’s never a good idea to be aggressive or violent with authorities. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, acting out and being aggressive is enough to get you in trouble in its own right, and you could end up with a criminal record. If you’re feeling frustrated or being treated unfairly there’s always a chance to fix it later. It’s usually better (and safer for you) to stay calm, and get legal help afterwards.
Being calm doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover. Asserting yourself is important, but make sure you do so calmly. You can stand your ground without becoming violent or aggressive.
You can ask things like:
“Can you tell me why you need my name and address?”
“Can you tell me why are you searching me?”
“Can you tell me your name, rank and station?” (If they are a police officer or a PSO in uniform)
“Can I see your badge or ID?” (If they are a ticket inspector or a PSO in plain clothes)
“Am I under arrest?”
In most situations, police, PSOs and ticket inspectors are required to answer these questions for you. Even if you’re not happy with the answers, you should try to cooperate at the time and make a complaint later.
Sometimes police, PSOs or ticket inspectors will ask for your ID. If you don’t give it to them they will probably hold you for longer, and you might even be given a fine. If you don’t have ID, then you should give them the details of a friend, relative or youth worker they can call. Letters, Centrelink cards and bank cards can also be accepted as ID.
You don’t ever have to give security guards your ID, but if you don’t they are allowed to refuse you entry or remove you from the premises.
If you know you’re going to make a complaint later, try to remember as much as possible about the incident. It’s easy to forget things over time, so you should try and write information down or type notes into your phone. Important things to note down are:
- Date and time of the incident
- Name, address and contact number for any witnesses
- Name of the officer or security guard
- ID number or badge number for the officer or security guard
- Company name of the ticket inspectors or security guard
If you are injured
If you’re injured, it’s important that you take a photograph of your injuries. Try to remember the last person you saw before you were injured and their contact details, because you may need to get a statement from them to prove you were not injured before the incident happened. You should go and see a doctor, even if the injuries are minor, so there are medical records to prove you were injured. This will help you and your lawyer if you decide to make a complaint later.
If they take your stuff
Police, PSOs and sometimes ticket inspectors can have the power to confiscate your stuff if it’s illegal or they need it to prove you or someone else broke the law. If you want to know when and where police, PSOs or ticket inspectors can confiscate your things, go check out their pages.
Police and PSOs usually have to make a record of any searches and any items they take and you can either get a receipt on the spot or request a copy of the record later.
If you’ve had some stuff confiscated, make sure you:
- Ask why they are taking it
- Ask when they think you can get it back
- Get their contact details, including their name, ID number or badge number
Security guards have no right to take your things, so don’t feel obliged to give them your property.
Being a witness
Helping a friend
If you are with a friend who is being spoken to by police, PSOs or ticket inspectors, avoid jumping in or pulling the officers away. If you intervene, you can be arrested or charged for hindering or assault. Even if you believe police, PSOs or ticket inspectors are in the wrong, the best way to help your friend is to observe as much as you can and remember or note down as much as possible.
It’s not illegal to take video footage of the incident as long as what you’re filming is out in the open and in public view. If police want to take your phone away to use any photos or videos as evidence, you can offer to email or text the photos or videos on the spot so you can hold onto your phone.
If you’re a witness
If police want you to be a witness, police or PSOs may ask you for your contact details. You have to give them your name and address if they ask you for them, but you don’t have to make a statement if you don’t want to. If you are a witness, you may get called to give evidence in court later on, even if you didn’t make a statement to police.
What if I film an incident on my phone?
If you have filmed an incident involving you or a friend on your phone, then authorities may ask to see it. They might also try to take the phone off you.
It is not illegal to film an incident that happens out in the open and in a public place, but police or PSOs are allowed to take the phone if they need to use your phone or what’s on your phone to prove you or someone else has broken the law. If you need to keep your phone, you can offer to email or text them the footage so they do not need to take your phone away.
Remember: they are not allowed to delete data from your phone, or take it away without a good reason.
What if an authority has done the wrong thing?
Take notes and get witness details so you can use that information to make a complaint later. Even if they are in the wrong, don’t get violent or aggressive at the time. It is better to get legal advice about how to deal with it afterwards.
What could happen if I run away?
If you run away, you could get fined or charged for resisting arrest and it might encourage authorities to use more force against you.
What could happen if I’m aggressive, or fight back?
You could be charged with resisting arrest and assault, and it might encourage authorities to use more force against you. Even threatening to use violence can be enough to get you charged with assault.
You might hear this a lot, but it’s true: you do have the right to remain silent. Besides giving them your name and address, you have the right to say “no comment” to other questions. Remember that nothing is “off the record”. Police can use anything you say as evidence against you, even if it’s not recorded at the police station.Home