The police have always had the right to demand your name and address under certain circumstances but these are limited to:
- If you are driving a car or motor bike or teaching a learner driver
- If you are involved in a car or bike accident as driver or a fatal accident as a passenger
- If you are under 18 and drinking alcohol in a public place
- If you are suspected of being involved in or witnessing a serious crime
- If you are using public transport
- If you are suspected of being a defendant in an Apprehended Violence Order.
NSW police officers also have the right under the (Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act s201) to ask for your name and address if:
- they do not already know these details
- they intend to give you a direction to leave a place (under the general move-on powers)
- or you are intoxicated in a public place.
Do the police have to give me a reason why they want my name?
The police must give you the same information and warnings as when they are giving you a move-on direction [See NUAA Police and Move-on Directions and Public Space] (Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act s201).
If the police have given you a warning, have identified themselves and the station they work from, then legally you must provide your name and address. The police can also ask you for ID, but you do not have to provide it.
Besides from giving the police your name and address, you do not need to say anything else. The officer must tell you that you don’t need to answer their questions, but that if you do say anything it can be used later as evidence (proof that you did something) in court.
Is it illegal to give a fake name?
You can make things worse for yourself by giving a fake name and address. It is illegal to:
- not provide your name and address
- or to give false information.
The maximum fine you can face is $220 under the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act s12.
If you think the police don’t have a good reason to ask for your details, or to search you, it is a good idea to ask for their name, rank, and the station they work from. The police, by law, have to tell you this information. You should write this down so you don’t forget.
Are there any questions I do have to answer?
If the police ask you to go to the station with them, you should ask if you’re under arrest. If you aren’t, you don’t have to go. It is important to understand that you can’t be forced or coerced to attend a police station to be interview unless you are under arrest.
If you are arrested the police need to inform you of your rights. Police have to tell you that you can call a friend, family member, and or a lawyer. If you choose to do this, they have to let you speak with that person in private before they interview you. If you are under 18 you have the right to have someone over 18 with you while you are being interviewed.
Where can I find out more information about my rights?
There are plenty of useful websites you can find more information or get free legal advice from. These include: