Police strip searches: What are your rights?

Posted by janelle.tarabay on 13 March 2019

This week, the NSW Police have come under fire after a 19-year-old woman alleged that she was strip-searched at Hidden Festival in Sydney, without adequate privacy and in view of male police officers.

Streeton Lawyers has dealt with a number of cases involving police conducting strip searches on festival-goers without adequate privacy or attempts to preserve dignity. Recently, in one of Maxine Malaney’s cases, police even filmed the strip search her client. We believe this is a now police practice, which is concerning.

In light of the increased use of police powers, it is important to know what your rights whether at a festival or another venue.

What can police legally do?

Police have the power to stop and search you if they suspect on reasonable grounds that you are in possession of illegal drugs. If a dog sits down next to you, police can use that indication to decide whether there are reasonable grounds to search you.

When in a public place, police can strip search you if they suspect on reasonable grounds that the strip search is necessary for the purposes of the search and because of the seriousness and urgency of the circumstances.

The does require the police to preserve your privacy and dignity as much as they can during the search. This means:

  1. The police officer needs to ask for your cooperation and explain whether you will have to take off your clothes and why.
  • The search needs to be conducted in a private area, by a person of the same sex as you. It must not be conducted in view of someone of the opposite sex or anyone else whose presence is not necessary to conduct the search.
  • The search must be conducted as quickly as possible and in the least invasive way. Police cannot touch you during the search and cannot search your intimate areas or body cavities.

If you find yourself in a situation where police want to search you, it is okay to politely insist upon your right to dignity and privacy. However, it is always a good idea to be cooperative and respectful, as the court may later take this into account if you are charged.

If you have been charged, or found yourself in a similar situation, we can help. Contact us on 9025 9888 or leave an enquiry on our website to speak with one of our criminal law specialists.

If you are looking for more information on police sniffer dogs, see Sniffer Dogs and Police Powers.