In Queensland, it is well known that when a police officer directs you to pull over, you should immediately comply with the request. This is because police officers have powers under the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 to require drivers to stop for questioning, a breath or swab test or even to search a vehicle in some circumstances. Failing to stop for police in Queensland will be considered a contravention of the Act and you may face severe penalties. This generally includes fines and/or imprisonment.
Under section 754 of the Act, it is an offence for any individual to refuse a request to stop a vehicle within a reasonable time. In reality, this may be the case if you fail to pull over after being called into a random roadside breath test bay or if you attempt to flee from a police car. The penalty for this offence is quite severe, as Queensland traffic law has zero tolerance for drivers who attempt to evade the police.
For a first time offender in Queensland, the penalty that is usually imposed is a fine of $5,500 or a term of 50 days served in a correctional facility. However, for severe infringements of the Act, the maximum penalty that the courts may impose is a fine of over $20,000 or a prison term of 3 years. In addition to any penalty that is imposed on an offender, the Act also requires that a mandatory 2 year disqualification period be imposed on the offenders drivers licence.
The Act also provides a separate penalty for any individual who is failing to stop for police in Queensland and is also part of a criminal organisation. Offenders who fall into this category will be faced with a mandatory minimum fine of over $10,000 or a jail term of 100 days.
Under the Act, it is considered irrelevant that the driver did not pull over due to a mistaken belief that the police officers vehicle was in fact another emergency vehicle such as an ambulance or fire and rescue. This defence can only be used if it is reasonable to assume in the circumstances that the vehicle was not a police vehicle but an ambulance or fire and rescue vehicle. This defence carries a heavy evidentiary burden on the driver and as such, should not be pleaded lightly, or without the advice of a lawyer.
If you are pulled over, it is important that you are aware of your rights and responsibilities in order to avoid any infringement of Queensland traffic law. If you are pulled over, the police have a number of rights including;
- The right to ask for your name and address (if there are reasonable circumstances i.e. you have committed an offence).
- The right to ask for your licence and registration.
- The right to conduct a random roadside breath or swab test to test for the presence of alcohol or drugs.
- The right to question you.
- The right to search you or your vehicle (only in particular circumstances).
Whilst the police in Queensland have a variety of powers, you also have a number of rights when dealing with a police officer. These are outlined below;
- You have the right to ask for a police officer’s identity badge and to explain why they are requesting your details.
- You have the right to not answer a question that you are asked, if you have a reasonable reason for doing so.
- You have the right to record the names of any bystanders or witnesses at the scene.
Please note however, that whilst a police officer has the right to search you or your belongings, they are unable to do so unless you agree to the search, they have a warrant for the search or if legislation enables them to conduct the search in limited circumstances. Also, whilst you have the right to refuse to give certain information to a police officer, any failure to give details of your name, address or drivers licence may result in a contravention of the Act and you may be charged.