Is It Warranted? Search Warrants in Queensland and Your Rights
In Queensland, the police may search your premises with or without a search warrant and may remove certain property if it relates to their investigation. Applications for search warrants are made by police to a Justice of the Peace, Magistrates Court, or Supreme Court (section 150 of the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act).
It is important for you to know your rights in relation to searches, as in certain situations you may refuse the police entry to your premises.
Police may enter your premises without a warrant (and only for a reasonable amount of time) if they are serving a legal document (such as a notice to appear), administering a breath test, if there is a medical emergency or someone has been injured, to search for evidence they reasonably believe will be destroyed or hidden, to arrest a person, to access a crime scene or to detain someone under an anti-terrorism detention order.
Police may also enter your premises with a warrant. In this scenario, the police will advise you that they have a warrant which allows them entry to your premises. At this time, you should ask to see the warrant. If any details are incorrect you should advise them immediately. Along with the warrant, the police must also give you a document that describes their powers under the warrant. The usual powers the police will have access to are, detaining anyone present and removing wall panels, floor panels, and ceiling panels to search for evidence. They can take photographs of items that may be seized for evidence, dig up your yard to locate evidence, open locked areas (such as safes, filing cabinets or cupboards) and they can search anyone found on the premises. If included in the warrant, they can also ask you for pin numbers for your electronic devices (such as mobile phones). During the search, the police cannot damage a building’s structure unless it is one of the included terms of the warrant, and it was issued by the Supreme Court of Queensland. The police do not have to clean up any mess they make in relation to the search, and if items are broken there is usually no compensation offered.
You should be cooperative with the police during the execution of a search warrant, otherwise, you may be charged with obstructing police (or similar). All searches are usually recorded by police so you should refrain from answering any questions they may ask unless you have sought the advice of a lawyer.
During the execution of a search, the police may seize your property where necessary. This is in circumstances where they suspect it is stolen, drug paraphernalia or drug items, weapons, CEM, vehicles or any other evidence they consider relevant to support a charge. The police will give you a receipt for any items they seize. You should keep this receipt in case any of the property can be returned at the conclusion of the proceedings. Usually, the police will return any property that is not the subject of a charge within 28 days. If you have been charged with a criminal offence as a result of a search, or the search is occurring right now, we highly recommend that you contact one of our expert criminal defence lawyers for legal advice. We have offices in Brisbane, Ipswich, and Toowoomba and are always available to assist.