Answering questions from the police

Police have powers that allow them to ask questions and interview you in certain situations. It is important to understand your legal rights in relation to these powers.

Generally, the police have the right to ask you questions at any time, even if you have not been arrested. Although they are allowed to ask you questions, this does not mean you always have to answer them.

In WA, you have a general right to silence, which means you normally do not have to answer questions from police. There are some questions you must answer, for example, your name, address and date of birth.

If the police tell you that you must answer a question, and you do not answer or lie, you may be charged with an offence.

This information will help you to understand more about answering questions from the police. Find out:

  • Do I have to answer police questions?
  • What questions do I have to answer?
  • How do I exercise my right to silence?
  • What happens if I answer police questions?
  • What are taped or written records of interview?

Do I have to answer police questions?

Police generally have the right to ask you questions at any time, however:

  • you can’t be questioned about an offence while you’re being searched, and
  • there are only some questions you must answer, others you can refuse because of your ‘right to silence’.

What questions do I have to answer?

You must answer questions about some things, for example:

  • You name, date of birth, and current address, in relation to an offence
  • The sale, supply or manufacture of illegal drugs or plants, if questioned by police under a search warrant
  • Property connected to an offence involving illegal drugs or plants, if you are searched by police
  • The import or export of goods, in relation to customs offences
  • Firearms, in relation to a firearms offence, and
  • Your proof of age when on licenced premises.

If police pull you over while you’re driving, you must:

  • Stop the vehicle
  • Give your name and address
  • Show your driver’s licence, or take it to the police station if you don’t have it, and
  • Take a breath test, or provide a sample of blood or oral fluid, if asked by police.

You will be committing an offence if you refuse to any of the above questions, or give false or misleading information.

How do I exercise my right to silence?

Before police question you as a suspect in relation to an offence, they must caution you about your right to silence and what can happen if you speak to them. For example:

'You are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so, but whatever you do say will be recorded and may later be given in evidence.'

For questions that you don’t have to answer, you can exercise your right to silence by saying, 'I do not wish to answer', or 'no comment'.

What will happen with my answers to police questions?

Any information you give to police can be used against you in court. You should always try and get legal advice before answering questions from police.

If you are told to give information to police as part of a search about illegal drugs or plants, your answers cannot be used as evidence in court against you, except to prove that you knew what you told the police was untrue or misleading.

What are recorded or written records of interview?

Information you provide to police may be recorded on video, audio tape, or put in writing. Police must make a copy available to you if you are charged. The record of interview can normally be played or given to the court as part of the police's evidence against you.

What if police obtain information from me unlawfully?

If police obtain information from you unlawfully, the court may refuse to let it be used as evidence at trial. For example, this could be because:

  • the police interviewed you without cautioning you, or you did not understand the caution they gave
  • the police said you must answer questions when you did not have to
  • you did not understand your right to silence (that you could refuse to all answer questions, and you could choose to answer only some and not others)
  • you were treated so unfairly during the interview, or
  • the police used threats or bribery to get you to give information.

If you feel that the police have not behaved properly when investigating an offence or have abused their powers, you can make a complaint about them. 

 

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Disclaimer

The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.