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Fingerprints and DNA Samples (Qld)

Written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts. She also completed a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice at the College of Law in Victoria. Fernanda practiced law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practiced in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016. Fernanda has strong interests in Indigenous and refugee law, human rights and law reform.

In Queensland, the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act gives police the power to take a person’s identifying particulars or a DNA sample in some circumstances.  Whether the police can take your fingerprints or other identifying particulars or a DNA sample and when they must destroy them depends on the offence you have been charged with and on your criminal history.

The police can also ask a suspect to take part in an identification parade (or line-up). However, police cannot require a person to take part in an identification parade; participation is voluntary.

What are identifying particulars?

Identifying particulars includes fingerprints, handprints, footprints, handwriting, measurements and voiceprints. It also includes photographs of a person’s identifying features, such as scars and tattoos.

When can police take fingerprints?

The police can take your fingerprints and other identifying particulars when you have been charged with an offence which carries a maximum penalty of one year’s imprisonment or more. They can also take your fingerprints or other identifying particulars if you have been charged with certain other offences prescribed by the act.

The police can also take a person’s identifying particulars if a court has made an order that they may do so (Section 471). If this occurs, the police may detain the person in order to obtain their particulars for as long as reasonably necessary, but generally not for longer than an hour (Section 472).

How are identifying particulars taken?

If a person is in custody for an identifying particulars offence, the police may take their fingerprints and other particulars. If the person has been arrested but is to be released, the police may detain them for as long as it takes to obtain their identifying particulars (Section 467).

The police can also obtain your identifying particulars by issuing a Notice to Provide Identifying particulars within 7 days. If you receive such a notice, you must go to a police station and provide the particulars that have been requested. Failure to do so may result in being charged with an offence.

When can police take a DNA sample?

If you are an adult and have been charged with a serious offence, the police may require you to provide a DNA sample.

How is a DNA sample taken?

A DNA sample is taken by way of a mouth swab or a collection of hair.

A DNA sample can be taken at a police station, hospital, prison or at another place the sampler considers appropriate. A DNA sample is usually taken by a doctor or nurse, but a police officer can take a DNA sample if he or she has been authorised to do so by the Commissioner.

The police can detain a person for the time reasonably necessary to take a DNA sample.

If the suspect is not in custody, police may issue a DNA Sample Notice requiring a person to attend a police station to provide a DNA sample within 7 days.

What happens to the identifying particulars or DNA sample?

The police will keep your identifying particulars or DNA for as long as the prosecution is on foot. If the charge is withdrawn or you are found not guilty, the police are required to destroy any identifying particulars or DNA they hold for you.

However, the police do not have to destroy your particulars or DNA sample if:

  • they are proceeding with another charge against you;
  • you have previously been found guilty of an identifying particulars offence;
  • the identifying particulars or DNA is required to investigate another offence you are suspected of committing;
  • the charge was not proceeded with because you were found to be unfit for trial on the basis of mental illness.

Identification parades

The police may ask you to take part in an identification parade, also known as a line-up. You do not have to agree to participate in an identification parade and should seek legal advice if asked to do so.

Identifying particulars and DNA of minors

When a child is arrested, the police can take fingerprints or other identifying particulars from them in the same circumstances as from an adult. However, when a child is summonsed in relation to an offence, police require a court order to obtain identifying particulars from the child.

When police take identifying particulars from a child, a support person must be present while the particulars are taken if they are to be admissible in court. If the child is found not guilty or released with a caution, the particulars must be destroyed (Section 27, Youth Justice Act).

The police can take a DNA sample from a child under 14 only with the consent of a parent. A DNA sample may be taken from a child over 14 with the child’s informed consent. The police can take a DNA sample from a child without consent only with a court order and where the child is charged with an indictable offence.

If you require legal advice or representation in a criminal matter or in any other legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

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