The legality of strip searches in NSW
When can NSW police submit a person to a strip search?
Over the past 4 years, NSW Police have nearly doubled the amount of strip searches they perform. You are now more likely to be strip searched by the police than ever before. They are being performed in many places, such as music festivals, the back of paddy wagons, behind alleyways and even at the side of the road. It is important that you know your legal rights in relation to strip searches in NSW, as there is more chance than ever that you will find yourself in this situation.
What is a strip search?
A strip search is when a police officer fomally requests you remove part or all of your clothing to visually inspect your body for hidden weapons / drugs / contraband. They may also inspect your clothing and bags.
A strip search is the point at which a cop requests that you eliminate a few or the entirety of your garments, and outwardly inspects your body. They may likewise look through your garments and sacks.
NSW law clearly defines that a strip search be an absolute last resort. NSW police have the power to force you to submit to a strip search if they have a “reasonable” suspicion to do so – such as illegal drugs, stolen items or weapons.
A “reasonable” suspicion must be more than just a hunch or a possibility. For example if the police witness you exchanging goods for money – then that could be deemed a “reasonable” reason to search – but the validity of a search is usually based on a number of factors.
Normally a police officer may just pat you down, or ask you to remove your outer garments, or even shake your hair or ask you to open your mouth.
It is at that point a police officer may request a strip search if, and only if it is deemed “necessary, serious and urgent.
Defining what makes a strip search necessary is difficult. Just being at a music festival or walking down the street is not enough of a reason for the police to request a strip search. Refusing a strip search, and also requesting the reason for the search is not enough to necessitate a strip search. You are allowed to speak your rights. They must have reasonable suspicion that you have something illegal hidden on your body.
Police MUST also make sure that the circumstance be serious and urgent enough that a strip search is absolutely necessary. What constitutes “serious and urgent”? Well that depends completely on the situation. This is however what is said in law and the police must have a legitimate reason if you ask them why its serious and urgent.
If you have been strip searched by the police it is important that you seek legal advice to find out what your options are. Chances are the strip search was unlawful. When conducting a strip search police must comply with the legislative requirements under the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW) (‘LEPRA’).
If you do find yourself being charged with an offence after being subjected to a strip search – give Sydney Law Solutions a call and we can help you mount an appropriate defence.