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Talking to the police

You have the right to remain silent, whether you have been stopped in the street, have agreed to go to the police station or are under arrest.

However, the police do have the power to ask you basic questions and in some situations you may be breaking the law if you refuse to answer.

Some examples include:

  • your name and address
  • your place and date of birth for drug matters
  • if the police suspect you've broken traffic laws, or if you’ve seen an accident they have wide powers to get information
  • some other questions that they have power to ask under special laws.

If you don’t want to answer questions or you’re not sure whether you must answer them, get legal advice.

The police can approach you and ask questions at any time, but this doesn’t mean you have to answer all of them. It’s a good idea to find out why they want to talk to you.

They can ask you to give your name and address, especially if they reasonably suspect you’ve broken the law. The officer must warn you that it’s an offence not to give them your correct name and address.

The police have wider powers to identify you if they reasonably suspect that you're part of a criminal organisation.

The police can use anything you say to them at any time. You don't have to be at a police station being interviewed for the information you provide to be used as evidence against you. There’s no such thing as 'off the record'. The police may use what you say to decide whether or not to arrest or charge you, and this may be used against you in court.

The right to remain silent

You have the right to remain silent whether:

  • you’ve been stopped in the street
  • you’ve agreed to go to the police station, or
  • you’re under arrest.

There are some situations where the police can ask you questions and if you don’t respond you are breaking the law.

Some examples include:

  • asking for your name and address
  • stating your place and date of birth for drug matters
  • if the police suspect you've broken traffic laws, or if you’ve seen an accident they have wide powers to get information 
  • some other questions they have power to ask under special laws (eg Liquor Act offences, drunk and disorderly offences, organised crime offences).

If you don't want to answer questions and you're not sure if you have to, get legal advice.

Going to the police station

You can’t be forced to go to the police station unless you’re under arrest

Just because the police come to your home, or call you and ask you to come to the station, this doesn't mean you have to go with them.

If the police aren’t giving you a choice about going to the station you can ask them if you’re under arrest. If you are not under arrest then you don’t have to go.

Even if you go to the station, you still have the right to remain silent. See being arrested.

What if I don’t want to be interviewed?

Sometimes the police may tell you that you need to go to the station and make a statement on tape that you don't want to be interviewed —you don't have to do this.  However, you may need to put in writing that you don't want to be interviewed.

In some situations you will have to answer questions, or show the police things like identification or your licence.

If you don't want to answer questions, and you're not sure whether you have to, get legal advice.

Having a police interview

You don’t have to agree to do an interview. If you’re a suspect, it’s usually best not to until you’ve had legal advice. The police will usually charge you anyway, whether you give an interview or not.

When agreeing to a police interview you should be aware of the following:

  • If you say something, it will be recorded, and you can’t take it back and it can be used against you in court (unless you can get the interview thrown out, which is hard to do).
  • You may feel nervous at the interview, even if you’ve done nothing wrong and you may misunderstand the question or answer incorrectly.
  • You might begin the interview expecting to be questioned on a specific charge, but what you say can lead to a different, more serious charge or more charges.
  • You can take a private lawyer with you, but they can’t interfere in the interview.
  • Even if it doesn't hurt to go and be interviewed, it doesn't usually help you either.
  • It's rare that the police will drop charges against you based on what you say in an interview.
  • The police don’t have to tell you the truth about what they might know about the alleged incident.

You should get advice from a lawyer about whether you should agree to a police interview. Legal Aid Queensland can’t provide you with a lawyer to go to the police station with you, but we can arrange for you to get legal advice to help you decide what to do. The police must delay starting the interview for a reasonable amount of time for you to contact a lawyer for legal advice. The amount of time depends on the circumstances, but it’s usually up to 2 hours. The police can hold you for up to 8 hours for questioning, unless they get permission from a magistrate to extend the time.

What are my rights if I agree to an interview?

You can talk to a friend, relative or lawyer before your interview.

Before starting an interview the police have to make sure you understand what’s happening.

For example:

  • if you're drunk you can insist that you are interviewed later when you're sober
  • if you don't speak English very well you can insist on an interpreter who speaks your language
  • if you're hearing impaired you can insist on an Auslan interpreter.

You have a right to get a copy of any statement you make to the police or a copy of any recorded interview.

Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples

If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person aged 17 or over, special laws apply for questioning you about indictable offences.

The police must inform you of your right to communicate with a friend, relative or lawyer, and they must notify or try to notify a representative of a legal aid organisation to tell them that you are in custody. When in custody you should be given the opportunity to speak to someone who can help you with the interview before questioning starts, and they should be present during the interview.

Young people

Generally, if you’re under 17 and being questioned by police about a serious offence, you must have a support person with you.

The support person should be:

  • a parent or guardian
  • a lawyer
  • a person who is acting for you who works in an agency that deals with the law
  • a relative or friend, or
  • a justice of the peace.

Do I need legal advice?

You should get legal advice if you:

  • are concerned about participating in a police interview, providing a DNA sample, or if the police want to talk to you about a serious offence
  • have been charged and
    • are going to court
    • the court has been adjourned
    • you want to transfer your case to another location or a different type of court (eg Mental Health Court)
    • you think you’ve missed your court date
  • have questions about your sentence, bail, or about telling people about your criminal history.

How to get legal advice

We may give legal advice on most criminal law matters in Queensland. We can’t provide a lawyer to attend a police interview with you. 

If you’ve been charged with a serious offence or you have any urgent matter you can apply for legal aid , or find a private lawyer  rather than waiting for a legal advice booking.

The following organisations may be able to give you legal advice:

Community legal centres —may give free preliminary legal advice and information on some criminal law matters. Most centres don’t provide legal representation. Contact them to find out if they can help.

Queensland Law Society— can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice and representation.

If you’re charged with an offence, you should ask police prosecutions at the relevant court for a copy of your Queensland Police form 9 (QP9) — this is a written summary of the police version of why you were charged and what happened. You should get your QP9 before getting legal advice.  You can get your QP9 from the police prosecutor on your first court date (the duty lawyer may be able to help you). If you can’t collect it on your first court date you’ll need to apply to police prosecutions for a copy. You’ll need to make a written request and show photo ID.

Who else can help?

These organisations may also be able to help. They don’t provide legal advice.

State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER) is responsible for collecting and enforcing unpaid infringement notice fines, court ordered monetary fines and Offender Recovery orders issued in Queensland. You can make arrangements to pay fines weekly, fortnightly or monthly.

Queensland Police Service Headquarters— investigates complaints about police misconduct and breaches of discipline. The internal complaints process is monitored by the Crime and Corruption Commission.

Crime and Corruption Commission— investigates complaints about corrupt conduct and police misconduct, even where the original complaint has been made to Queensland Police. The organisation monitors the police internal complaints process and can take over investigations, if necessary.

Queensland Courts provides information about the:

  • Supreme Court
  • Court of Appeal
  • District Court
  • Magistrates Court
  • Coroners Court
  • Childrens Court of Queensland
  • Land Court.
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