Your rights when talking to the police (if you are not under arrest)
You have the right to remain silent, other than giving your name, address, and if in an age-sensitive situation, your date of birth.
You don’t have to go anywhere with police unless you have been arrested.
If you do agree to go with the police somewhere and have not been arrested, you can change your mind and politely leave at any time.
You have the right to ask why you are being questioned, detained, or arrested.
If you’re not under arrest and you don’t want to speak to the police, you have the right to walk away. Let them know you’re leaving because you’re not arrested.
The police only have to inform you of your rights if you have been arrested. Otherwise, the police are not required to inform you of your rights.
NORML has prepared this statement if you would like to stop talking to a police officer:
Officer, if I am under arrest or being detained, please tell me so. If I am free to go, please tell me so. If I am not free to go, please tell me why. I wish to exercise all my legal rights including my right to silence and my right to speak to a lawyer before I say anything to you. I do not consent to be searched. I wish to be released without delay. Please do not ask me questions, because I will not willingly talk to you until I speak to a lawyer. Thank you for respecting my rights.
Cops do NOT have the right to search you unless:
- You give your consent;
- They arrest you;
- They have a search warrant;
- They have ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe you have drugs or a weapon on you. If you are being searched for this reason, they must tell you why.
- There are reasonable grounds to believe you have evidence relating to a serious crime (with a maximum prison sentence of 14 years or more);
- You’re in a public place where there is a liquor ban and they are searching for alcohol;
- You’re in transit (i.e. in an airport, railway station or other such places) and they have reasonable grounds to believe that you have property that has been stolen or unlawfully obtained.
Cops may take silence to mean ‘implicit consent’. If you do not want to be searched, say “I do not consent to a search. What is your lawful authority?”
Do not try to stop, or resist an officer if they have the authority to search you. You can get arrested for obstruction if you try to prevent the search.
Police need a search warrant to search your car, unless:
- you give them permission;
- they believe it has stolen property in it or property from a crime involving dishonesty;
- they reasonably believe that you are carrying drugs or certain types of weapons.
Police need a search warrant to search your home, unless:
- you give them permission
- they have good reasons to suspect drugs are on the property;
- there is an emergency with risk to safety;
- there are illegal firearms;
- they believe there is evidence relating to a serious crime
- they believe someone in your home has escaped from prison or there is an arrest warrant for this person; or
- there is an emergency to do with national security
If you are under arrest
You must give your name, address, date and place of birth, and occupation – nothing else.
You have the right to NOT make a statement, and the police must inform you of this.
You have the right to know the nature and cause of the charge, at the time of arrest.
You have the right to consult a lawyer.
You have the right be treated humanely.
How to interact with police
New Zealand Police often respond to perceived “rudeness” as an excuse to escalate situations. Despite our legal rights, Police will always have considerable power and discretion over your freedom. YouthLaw recommends:
- always keep a clear head;
- stay polite;
- call the police officer Sir or Madam;
- do not swear or insult the officer; and
- although your legal rights are important, being cheeky or smart when being questioned or searched will usually not be in your best interests.
It is lawful to take photographs of anyone in public places without their consent, and this includes police officers. You can also film police on private property if you have the consent of the property owner.
Complaints about police
New Zealand has an ‘Independent’ Police Conduct Authority, which investigates some complaints into police misconduct. If Police act in an unlawful way, lay a complaint with the IPCA. Make detailed notes of all of your interactions with the beforehand.
Information about police abuse of power: