Fingerprints and dna: be careful what you touch
In Queensland, Police have powers, in certain circumstances, to require an individual to provide fingerprints or identifying particulars and DNA samples. These powers are contained within the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000.
The circumstances where they may take your identifying particulars are:
- Charged with an offence which carries a penalty of one-year imprisonment or more;
- Prescribed offences/powers, s41A;
- By order of the Court
The police may issue an Identifying Particular’s Notice (IDP) or detain an individual in order to obtain the particulars. This usually occurs at the same time as when an individual is charged with an offence. The IDP allows 7 days for an individual to comply by attending a nominated police station to provide the particulars. Failing to comply with an Identifying Particular’s Notice is an offence and should an individual not comply or be late in compliance they are likely to be charged.
A court can also order that identifying particulars be collected, in certain circumstances.
Identifying particulars include photographs of your face or identifying features such as a tattoo, fingerprints, palm prints, voiceprints to name a few.
If you have been charged with a very minor offence and are concerned that you have also been issued with an IDP, you should obtain legal advice immediately and in particular within the 7-day period.
If you have been charged with a serious offence, the Police may require you to provide a sample of your DNA.
DNA samples are usually collected by way of oral swab or hair. The samples are usually collected by a doctor or a nurse at a hospital. However, properly trained police may also be authorised to collect samples. Most individuals are usually detained for the purpose of collecting a sample however Police may also issue a DNA Sample Notice requiring an individual to attend a police station within 7 days.
An individual’s identifying particulars and DNA Sample results are then stored on various Queensland and Commonwealth databases.
They remained stored for as long as the Prosecution remains on foot. If the individual is ultimately found not guilty or the Prosecution decide to withdraw the prosecution, the Police are required to destroy the particulars and/or DNA within a reasonable time.
However, the Police are not required to destroy the particulars or DNA sample if:
- The charge has been substituted;
- You are a suspect in another charge that is being investigated;
- You have pleaded guilty to an IDP offence;
- The Proceedings were discontinued because of a finding that you were unfit for trial because of a mental illness.
The Police also have a rarely used power to ask an individual to take part in an identification parade or ‘line up’. The Police cannot compel you to take part and an individual has a right to refuse.
If you have been charged with any offence and been issued with an IDP or DNA Sample Notice, you should seek legal advice immediately.