Legal Aid Queensland

Dealings with police

Go Search
Legal information
Media centre
About us
Skip Navigation LinksHome > Legal information > The justice system > Dealings with police > Do I have to talk to the police?

Do I have to talk to the police? 

Legal Information

Do I have to talk to the police?

The police can come up to you and ask you questions at any time, but this does not mean you are obliged to answer all of their questions. It is a good idea to find out why they want to talk to you.

The police can generally ask you to provide your name and address especially where they reasonably suspect that you have broken the law. A police officer must warn you that it is an offence not to give the police officer your correct name and address.

The police have wider powers to determine your identity if they reasonably suspect that you are a participant of a criminal organisation, see Participating in a criminal organisation.

The police have wider powers to ask you questions under G20 laws. See G20.

Remember, anything you say to the police can be used by them. You don't have to be at a police station being interviewed. There is 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 the police may use what you say against you in court.

The police are asking me questions. I've got the right to remain silent, haven't I?

Yes, you do. Whether you've been stopped in the street, you've agreed to go to the police station or you're under arrest, but there are some things the police have the power to ask you and if you don't answer you are breaking the law.

Some examples where you must answer are:

  • your name and address
  • date and place of birth in drug matters
  • where the police suspect you have broken traffic laws or if you have seen an accident they have wide powers to get information (See Driving and licence offences).
  • some other questions that they have power to ask under special laws

If you don't want to answer questions and you're not sure whether you have to, ask a lawyer for legal advice.

The police want me to go to the police station to answer questions. Do I have to go?

No, unless you are under arrest. The police cannot force you to go to the police station without arresting you. Just because the police call at your address or ring you and ask you to come to the police station doesn't mean you have to go there.

If police don't seem to be giving you a choice about going to the police station you can ask if you're under arrest. If you're not you don't have to go.

Even if you do go to the police station, you still have the right to remain silent.

I've told the police I don't want to be interviewed but they're still at me to go to the police station anyway. What can I do?

Sometimes the police tell you that you still need to come and say on a tape that you don't want to be interviewed. You don't have to do it.  You may need to write a letter to confirm that you don't want to go and be interviewed.

In some circumstances you do have to answer questions or show police things like your ID, your licence.

If you don't want to answer questions and you're not sure whether you have to, ask a lawyer for legal advice.

The police want to interview me to tell my side of the story. If I've got nothing to hide it can't hurt to go for a police interview can it?

Yes, it can.

  • If you say something, it's recorded and you can't take it back. It can be used against you in court (unless you can get the interview thrown out, which is hard).
  • Even if you've done nothing wrong, you can feel nervous at the interview, misunderstand the question and perhaps answer incorrectly.
  • You might expect one charge, but what you say can lead to a different, more serious charge or more charges.
  • You can take a lawyer with you to the interview to advise you, but the lawyer cannot 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 what you say in an interview will mean that the police will drop charges against you.

You can get advice from a lawyer about whether agreeing to a police interview is a good idea for you. Legal Aid Queensland does not provide lawyers to go to the police station with you, but can arrange for you to get legal advice to help you decide whether you want to agree to an interview.

If I agree to be interviewed, what are my rights?

You can talk to a friend, relative or lawyer before you have the interview and the police have to tell you that you have to be able to understand what's going on properly, for example:

  • if you're drunk you can insist that you get 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 deaf you can insist on an Auslan interpreter
  • you have a right to get a copy of any statement you make to police or a copy of any taped record of the interview.

If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander 17 or over special provisions apply for questioning in relation to indictable offences. Police must inform you of the right to communicate with a friend, relative or lawyer. Police must notify or try to notify a representative of a legal aid organisation that you are in custody. If you are in custody you should be given the opportunity to speak to an interview friend before questioning starts, and the interview friend should be present during questioning.

Back to top

Do I need legal advice?

You should get legal advice if you

  • have concerns 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, or
    • court has been adjourned, or
    • you want to transfer court to another location or another type of court (eg Mental Health Court), or
    • you think you have missed your court date
  • have questions about your sentence, bail, or about telling people about your criminal history.

Back to top

Where can I get legal advice

Legal Aid Queensland may provide legal advice on most Queensland criminal law matters. If you have been charged with a serious offence or you have an urgent matter, it may be better to apply for a grant of legal aid if you are eligible, or seek private representation, rather than waiting for a legal advice booking.

Legal Aid Queensland cannot provide you with a lawyer to attend a police interview. 

The following organisations may also be able to provide you with legal advice.

Community legal centres may give free preliminary legal advice and information on some criminal law matters. Most CLCs do not provide legal representation. Check with your closest CLC whether they can assist with your matter.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor who can provide advice and representation.

Important: before seeking legal advice about a criminal charge, you should collect your QP9 from the police prosecutor at your first court date. If you were unable to collect it at your first court date, you should apply to the police/prosecutions office for your QP9. You will need to present photo identification and a written request to the police prosecutor. Contact your local police station if you are unsure where to apply.

Back to top

Who else can help?

These organisations may also be able to help with your matter. They do not provide legal advice.

State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER) is responsible for the collection and enforcement of unpaid infringement notice fines, court ordered monetary fines and Offender Recovery orders issued in Queensland. You can make arrangements to pay SPER an amount each week/fortnight/month.

Queensland Police Service Headquarters investigate complaints about police misconduct and breaches of discipline. Internal complaints process is monitored by the Crime and Corruption Commision.

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

Queensland Courts information on Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, district court, magistrates court, Coroners Court, Childrens Court of Queensland, Land Court.

Back to top

Disclaimer - Copyright © 1997 Legal Aid Queensland. This content is provided as an information source only and is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should seek legal advice from a lawyer. Legal Aid Queensland believes the information is accurate as at 2 April 2014 but accepts no responsibility for any errors or omissions and denies all liability for any expenses, losses, damages and costs you might incur due to the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way.

Last modified: 11 August 2015 4:18PM
Page Contact:

Copyright | Disclaimer | Privacy | Access keys | Other languages
© Legal Aid Queensland 2006

Do I have to talk to the police?