Search Warrants in Tasmania
Police in Tasmania may search a home for evidence if they have a valid search warrant. In some circumstances, the police have the power to conduct a search even without a warrant. This article sets out the types of search warrants that exist in Tasmania and the circumstances where police can search a home without a warrant.
Search warrants in Tasmania are most commonly issued under the Search Warrants Act 1997. A police officer may also apply for a warrant to search a home for stolen property, under the Police Offences Act 1935. Other kinds of search warrants can be issued under the Crime (Confiscation of Profits) Act 1993 for searching for proceeds of an offence, and pursuant to the Criminal Investigation (Extra-Territorial) Offences Act 1987 for crimes committed in Tasmania under the law of another state or territory. For Commonwealth crimes (e.g. treason), Tasmanian police may be issued with a search warrant under the Crimes Act 1914.
General search warrants
A justice of the peace can issue a police officer with a general search warrant to search a home or other premises if they are satisfied that there might be evidence there that the occupant has committed a crime, or that there will be evidence of them having committed the crime within the next 72 hours. A warrant cannot last longer than 28 days.
The warrant must state the premises to be searched and the crime to which it relates. The warrant will expire after 48 hours if the police officer is issued with the warrant via telephone. A warrant entitles the police to do certain things listed in the Search Warrants Act 1997, including searching the premises and recording fingerprints found. The police can also search computers for evidence of a crime, and seize them if they consider it necessary to do so. You will be given a receipt listing any items which are taken from the premises.
Owners or occupiers have a right to be present when a search warrant is executed. They are also entitled to see a copy of the search warrant. It is an offence to refuse the police access to premises or obstruct a police officer who is trying to search the premises.
Search warrants for seizing stolen property
A search warrant can also be issued by the Commissioner of Police to a police officer for the specific purpose of searching for stolen property under the Police Offences Act 1935. The warrant applies generally, meaning it does not refer to a specific premises to be searched. However, a police officer can only take action under such a warrant if they have reasonable grounds to believe there is stolen property on the premises. These warrants expire after six months.
Search warrants for seizing proceeds of criminal activity
Under the Crime (Confiscation of Profits) Act 1993 a magistrate can issue a police officer with a search warrant for the purposes of searching premises to find “tainted property”, which includes proceeds of a crime, or something used to commit the crime. The police officer can search certain premises for “tainted property” and to seize that property. Warrants for seizing proceeds of criminal activity can be issued over the telephone and will expire after one month. Furthermore, the police officer can also search people on the premises and arrest them if necessary. Property which is seized is under the care of the Commissioner of Police and will be returned if a person is not charged with an offence relating to the property within 7 days after the property was seized.
Search warrants for ‘extra-territorial’ crimes
A magistrate can issue a police officer with a search warrant under the Criminal Investigation (Extra-Territorial) Offences Act 1987 for the purposes of searching premises for any evidence that a person has or will commit an “extra-territorial offence”. An extra-territorial offence means an offence under the laws of another State or Territory which would also be a crime under Tasmanian law. Such a search warrant can only last for 28 days. It is an offence to hinder a police officer from executing the warrant. You could be sentenced to up to 12 months imprisonment, or you might be required to pay a fine of up to 20 penalty units ($2,800). Both penalties can be imposed simultaneously.
Search warrants for Commonwealth crimes
Police officers and members of the Australian Federal Police also have access to search warrants under Commonwealth law if a person is suspected of committing or planning to commit a Commonwealth crime (e.g. terrorism). These warrants allow the police officer to search your home for evidence. They may also search your car or your person. The police officer can also take photographs and video recordings, and access your computer. Such warrants are issued by a magistrate or a justice of the peace and last for a maximum of 7 days. A request for such a warrant can also be made via the telephone if a warrant is required urgently.
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