There are important rights for parents and guardians to be aware of if your child (under the age of 17 years) is suspected of breaking the law and committing a crime.
For instance, police cannot take your child anywhere without making an arrest or obtaining your child’s consent. However, if a police officer asks your child for their name or address, they should provide this accurately.
What happens if your child is arrested?
If the police arrest your child in Queensland, they must make clear that an arrest is taking place and provide the reason for the arrest. Once an arrest has been made, it is important for your child to remain calm and not struggle, as this can lead to further charges of resisting arrest or attempting to escape lawful custody.
Your child should be aware that anything they say to police (even outside of the police station) may be recorded and could be used as evidence against them. Before your child provides a statement to police, it is important to seek legal advice.
Can the police search my house?
Police in Queensland do not have an automatic legal right to forcefully enter into your house or locked premises. You are able to refuse a police officer entry by clearly stating that you are not granting consent or invitation to the officer for entry into your house or land.
It is important to be firm but respectful when refusing entry to police. A violent or abusive reaction towards police may result in your arrest.
When can the police enter my house without consent?
In certain situations, police may be permitted to enter your house without permission. Below is a brief summary of when police can search your premises. More information about your rights and the power of police to conduct searches can be found in our dedicated articles on Search Warrants in Queensland and Personal Searches in Australia.
Police can legally enter your house if they have a valid warrant. If an officer claims to have a search warrant, ensure you see the warrant and request a personal copy.
Police are also required to provide you with a statement outlining their powers pursuant to the warrant.
Searches without warrant
Police may enter your property if they reasonably suspect that a person they are seeking to arrest or detain is in your home. Queensland courts define a ‘reasonable suspicion’ as a fact that would cause a reasonable person to believe something or make a conclusion about something.
Police may also search your house without a warrant if they have a reasonable suspicion that evidence of an indictable offence will be destroyed or concealed unless an immediate search is conducted.
Can the police search my car without a warrant?
A police officer is permitted by law to stop and conduct a search of a vehicle if the officer reasonably suspects the vehicle is being unlawfully used or contains a prohibited or stolen item.
Do I have to tell the police if I believe my child may have broken the law?
You do not have to call the police if you are worried that your child has broken the law.
Whilst you do not have to actively inform the police about your child’s actions, you cannot willingly conceal evidence of an offence that your child has committed. For instance, if police find drugs inside your home belonging to your child, you may also be charged with possession of drugs. This is the case unless you can prove that you were unaware of the drugs being there and you did not reasonably suspect there were drugs in the house. This would not be possible if you actively hid the drugs and therefore knew of their existence.
Am I required to provide a statement to police?
Unless you are arrested, you have no legal obligation to go to the police station. You also do not have to provide a statement to police or discuss any matter with them.
However, if you do decide to speak with police, you should not lie or mislead them as this may lead to charges against you.
Withdrawing a complaint about my child
At times, parents may contact the police to make a complaint against their child. If a parent later wishes to withdraw this complaint, they will be required to contact the police station and complete a ‘withdrawal of complaint’ form.
The court may then dismiss the charges. However, if the police have other evidence relating to the offence then they may still proceed with charges against your child.
If the police question your child, they are allowed to have an independent adult support person of their choice present with them during their police interview. This may be a parent or guardian, youth worker, lawyer, family member or friend.
It is important for your child to obtain legal advice before discussing anything with police. Free legal assistance may be available for children in Queensland through Legal Aid or the Youth Advocacy Centre.
What is the process if my child is the victim of a crime?
If your child reports a crime, the police will initiate investigations and if there is adequate evidence, then charges will be laid against the alleged perpetrator. If the matter proceeds to court, your child may be required to give evidence as a prosecution witness.