Police Stop and Search Powers


Contributed by Richard Davies and current to 4 April 2018.

Power to stop and search people

These powers are governed by the ACT Crimes Act 1900 (''Crimes Act”).

In the ACT a police officer may:
  • Stop and detain a person;
  • Conduct a frisk search or ordinary search of a person for a relevant thing; and
  • Seize any thing found.
If the officer suspects on reasonable grounds that:
  • The person is carrying or has in his or her possession something relevant to a serious offence (that is, an offence punishable by more than 12 months imprisonment) or a thing stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained; and
  • It is necessary to exercise the power to prevent the thing from being concealed, lost or destroyed; and
  • It is necessary to exercise the power without the authority of a search warrant because the circumstances are serious and urgent.
Section 185 of the Crimes Act defines frisk search as:
  1. A search of a person conducted by quickly running the hands over the person's outer garments; and
  2. An examination of anything worn or carried by the person that is conveniently and voluntarily removed by the person.
Section 185 of the Crimes Act defines an ordinary search as a search of a person or articles in the possession of the person which may require the person to remove his or her overcoat, coat, or jacket and any gloves, shoes, socks and hat.

Power to stop and search vehicles etc.

Under s 209 of the Crimes Act, a police officer may exercise similar powers in similar circumstances in relation to conveyances, including vehicles, vessels or aircraft.

In searching a motor vehicle a police officer must search the conveyance in a public place and shall not detain the conveyance for longer than is necessary and reasonable but may use the force that is necessary and reasonable in the circumstances, see s 210 of the Crimes Act.

Power to Require a Person to Provide Their Name and Address

If a police officer has reason to believe that an offence has been or may have been committed and believes on reasonable grounds that a person may be able to assist him or her with their inquiries, a police officer may request a person to provide their name or address or both, and shall inform the person of the reason for the request, see s 211(1) of the Crimes Act.

It is an offence to fail to comply with the request or provide a name or address that is false in a material particular punishable by a fine of $500.00, see s 211(2) of the Crimes Act.

A person to whom a request is made by a police officer may request the police officer to provide his or her name or the address of his or her place of duty or both, or if the police officer is not in uniform, evidence that he or she is a police officer. It is an offence for a police officer to fail to comply with the request or provide a name or address that is false in a material particular punishable by a fine of $500.00, see s 211(3) of the Crimes Act.

This site is powered by FoswikiCopyright © by the contributing authors. All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
Ideas, requests, problems regarding AustLII Communities? Send feedback