If the police want to interview you or start to ask you questions because they believe you may be a witness to or involved in a crime you do have rights. However, your rights are different depending on the type of crime involved. In Victoria there are two main types of crimes – indictable offences and summary offences.
An indictable offence is a serious one like armed robbery, murder or rape. A summary offence is a less serious offence like if you are pulled over for drink driving or disorderly behaviour.
Police may interview you on the spot by asking questions or ask you to go to the police station with them.
Can the police take a statement from me?
A statement is a written document about your version of what happened. The police may ask you for a statement if they believe you are a witness or a suspect to a crime. Either way, your rights remain the same and you do not have to give them a statement. If you are asked for a statement, it is best to speak to a lawyer first and get their advice.
If you do give a statement you will be asked to sign it and confirm that it is true. If you do not think the written statement is true you can choose not to sign it or you can make changes to it.
If you are pulled over for a summary offence the police may ask you questions on the spot and write down your answers. This is called a Field Statement and can be used as evidence against you. You must be given a copy of the Field Statement when you are given a brief of evidence.
Do I have to go to the police station?
If the police ask you to go to the station with them you can refuse unless:
- They are arresting you for a crime;
- You have been driving and they want you to take a breathalyser or drug test;
- They are investigating a report of family or domestic violence; or
- They believe you are mentally impaired and need to be placed in custody.
You have the right to ask them why they want to take you to the police station. You can also ask them to put in writing their name, rank and police station.
Do the police need to read me my rights?
If you are being questioned about an indictable offence then the police must tell you your rights. If they do not tell you about your legal rights, like your right to have a lawyer present, then anything you say cannot be considered by a Court later.
Some of your rights include:
- Choosing not to answer any of their questions. The only exception is that you must tell the police your name and address if they ask. It is an offence if you refuse to give them this information or give them a false name or address;
- Being allowed to make a phone call to your lawyer;
- Being allowed to try to call a friend or relative so they know where you are;
- Being told what crime you are being charged with;
- Refusing to have your photo taken;
- Refusing to be part of a line up or identification parade; and
- Refusing to be part of a re-enactment of a crime.
If you want to call a friend, relative or lawyer you may not remember their number. You can ask the police to help you with this, particularly if you do not have access to your phone. If you do not have a specific lawyer, the police may give you the contact details of one or you can contact us.
If the police try to take a copy of your fingerprints you must allow them to.
Can the police record my interview on video?
Yes, but the police must tell you that you are being recorded on video if you are being interviewed about an indictable offence. It is common for video recorders to be used by the police for interviews and the recording or anything you say in the interview may be used as evidence in Court later. This can help the case if you or any other witnesses interviewed by the police die or cannot be located by the time the case goes to Court.
After the interview is recorded the police must give you a copy of the recording. They may do this when you are released, or they must leave it with your belongings if you are not released from custody.
Do I have to say anything in my police interview?
The only thing that you are legally required to tell police in an interview is your name and address.
You can choose to speak openly to the police in your interview or make no comment. While you can do a bit of both it may not come across in your favour, because the police may read into the things that you choose not to comment on.
Generally, it is better to make no comment especially if you have not spoken to your lawyer yet. Whatever you say to the police in your interview can be used against you and may be used as evidence of your credibility or your guilt. Your lawyer should be able to give you advice about what you should or should not say in a police interview.
Regardless of whether you say anything or not in your interview, it is best not to be rude or aggressive. How you behave in the interview may also be used as evidence in Court and may not put you in a favourable light with a Judge or Jury.
Can I ask for an interpreter?
If you are not able to speak English fluently the police must offer you an interpreter before they interview you. Even if you can speak English but it is not your first language you can ask for an interpreter to be at the interview. If the police refuse to give you an interpreter after you ask for one your lawyer can argue in Court that the interview should not be used as evidence.
Can I say anything off the record to the police?
No, nothing you say to the police is “off the record”. Anything you say to the police is on the record and may be used as evidence in Court.
Our lawyers have over 20 years experience helping people just like you. Speaking to the police about a crime regardless of whether you are a witness or a suspect can be an emotional and stressful experience. We take the time to listen to you, explain what your rights are in plain English and outline your options.