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Questioning

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you do say to the police can be used as evidence against you in court, or in the police decision whether or not to charge you.

You should refuse to answer any questions, apart from your name and address, until you have had an opportunity to speak to a lawyer.

If the police question you before you have received legal advice, you should answer “no comment” to all questions. Do NOT answer some questions and not others - this may be used in court as evidence that you had something to hide on the questions that you did not answer.

If you do not speak English - ask for an interpreter. The police should not conduct an interview without the aid of an interpreter.

You have the right to ask for a lawyer. You should do so immediately and continuously. You must be allowed to speak to a lawyer in a private space where you cannot be overheard. If the police are within hearing when you call your lawyer, make sure that the lawyer is aware that you are being overheard and do not go into details over the phone.

If the police question you formally without you having spoken to a lawyer, state clearly during questioning that you refuse to continue with the interview until you have received legal advice.

If you are not an Australian citizen you have the right to contact your embassy or consular office.

You must be allowed to telephone a friend or relative. The police may only deny you this right if they believe that as a result of your call:

  • Someone else involved in the crime might get away
  • Some evidence may be lost or tampered with
  • Other people may be in danger

Different rules about police questioning apply to driving matters involving alcohol or drugs.

You should not have any conversations at all with the police, no matter how innocent or irrelevant they seem, until you have spoken to a lawyer, your family and/or an independent third person (a person required to be at an interview where the interviewee suffers from an intellectual disability).

Do not be intimidated by the police questioner. The police may tell you that by saying “no comment” you are risking being charged with a more serious offence, or that you will not be released on bail. Do not believe these threats and do not tell the police anything until you have spoken to a lawyer.

The police must tape record the questioning (called the record of interview) if you are charged with a serious (indictable) offence. (Police are not required to tape record interviews where you are to be charged with a less serious (summary) offence.)

If you are charged with a serious (indictable) offence, the police must also tape record the following caution being given to you before you are questioned:

‘I must inform you that you are not obliged to say or do anything but anything you say or do may be given in evidence. Do you understand that? I must also inform you of the following rights: You may communicate with or attempt to communicate with a friend or relative to inform that person of your whereabouts. You may communicate with or attempt to communicate with a legal practitioner.'

The police must also tape any questioning and your answers. If you are charged and your matter proceeds to court, this tape may be transcribed and presented as evidence.

The police must give you a copy of the tape. You should get this to your lawyer as soon as possible.

Note that for less serious offences, known as summary offences, the police do not have to conduct a taped record of interview. They may simply write down any questions and answers and this record may be used in court.

If you are under 18 years of age

The police MUST NOT formally question you unless your parents or guardian or an independent person is present during questioning.