This page has information about your rights when the Police are investigating criminal offences and want you to answer questions, including information about some of the limited situations when you can be required to answer police questions.
Police questioning before arrest
Police questioning after arrest
Police questioning of children and young people
Police Questioning before Arrest
Do I have to answer Police questions if I’m not under arrest?
In general, the Police have no power to require you to provide them with information, whether it’s your personal details such as your name and address, or information about other people.
When can the Police require me to give information?
These are two common situations where the Police have a statutory power to require you to give them information:
- traffic – the Police can stop any vehicle and ask the driver for their name, address, occupation, telephone number and date of birth, and also the name of the owner if someone else owns the vehicle. For more information about Police powers in this area, see infosheet Traffic.
- sale of alcohol – if the Police suspect you of committing an offence against the Sale of Liquor Act 1989, they can require you to tell them your name, address and, if it’s relevant, your age.
If you fail to give the Police the information in these situations, you can be arrested.
Police Questioning after Arrest
What information does an arrested person have to give the Police?
If you’ve been arrested and are in Police custody, the Police can require you to give them your identifying details – for example your name, address and date of birth.
The Police can also photograph you and take your fingerprints, palmprints and footprints.
Do I have to answer any other questions if under arrest?
Apart from giving the Police your identifying details, you don’t have to give them any information. Your rights under arrest include the right to remain silent and to not make any statement – this includes a written statement, a verbal explanation or a Police video interview.
It’s a good idea not to answer any Police questions or make any other statements to them until you’ve spoken to a lawyer. If you’re under arrest you have the right to talk to a lawyer.
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Police Questioning of Children and Young People
Restrictions on when the Police can question young people about an offence
The Police must follow special rules when questioning people under 17. If you’re under 17 and the Police think you’ve broken the law or they want to question you to get you to admit breaking the law, they cannot ask you any questions until they’ve explained your legal rights to you. They must explain these things in a way and in language that is appropriate to your age and level of understanding.
If you’re under 17, you’re also entitled to have a lawyer and another adult present when the Police are taking a statement from you.
For more information, see Info sheet Children And Young People – Youth Justice
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(Updated: March 2011)