Mardi Gras 2013 (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/hasitha_tudugalle/
The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is the biggest event for our community. You probably already know that it is Mardi Gras’ 40th anniversary this year. So we expect you (like us) will be attending celebrations right up to the recovery parties that follow the parade.
But, there is an important message we want to get out to our clients, family and friends. That message is that you have legal rights when you deal with police officers and we are the lawyers who a large portion of the community comes to for legal representation in police matters.
Here is practical advice you can follow:
Police searches: know your rights
Police can search you if they have a reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime. That might be because you are behaving suspiciously or it might be because a drug dog has sat down next to you. Sometimes suspicion arises because of a person’s particular location or police intelligence.
During a search, police must:
- Offer you the right to be silent [you should generally accept the offer and not say anything to police]
- Give you sufficient privacy [especially if they strip-search you]
- Offer you a same-sex gendered officer [if practicable]
- Not insert their fingers in your mouth or any cavity without a warrant signed by a magistrate or judge
Reasonable suspicion is sometimes a basis for an accused person challenging an illegal search and the charge . You should speak to DTL’s criminal lawyers about challenging a charge based on the illegality of the search. Illegal searches may, in some circumstances, render a resulting charge void. Sometimes, a defendant also has the right to seek costs for wrongful prosecution and we will vigorously pursue the prosecution if we are successful in challenging a prosecution.
If you are spoken to by police, be respectful, and ask your friends not to interfere, but also know that your friends are permitted to film police actions, provided they are not getting in the way. If police want to see your identification, you should provide it, but politely also ask the police officer for theirs.
Police may ask you to ‘move on’.
If you are in a public place, such as attending a Mardi Gras event, police can give you a direction to move on. Police must warn you before giving you such a direction and they cannot give you a direction unless they have reasonable grounds to believe that your presence or conduct is:
- obstructing another person or persons or traffic;
- harassing or intimidating another person or persons;
- causing or likely to cause fear to another person or persons, so long as the relevant conduct would be such as to cause fear to a person of reasonable firmness;
- for the purpose of unlawfully supplying, or intending to unlawfully supply, or soliciting another person or persons to unlawfully supply, any illicit drug; for the purpose of obtaining, procuring or purchasing any illicit drug that it would be unlawful for the person to possess; and
- if they suspect you may be engaging in public disorder.
If you are directed to move on, and police have warned you that they may direct you to move on, then you should follow the direction.