What can I do when authorities knock on my door? This weeks blog by Queen City Lawyer Jack Cheng covers some of the things you should expect when the police come to your home, and also some of the things the police expect from you. Remember if you are in doubt get a lawyer informed of your situation as soon as possible. Queen City Law have a talented team of lawyers who can advocate for you and represent your interests in all types of situations. To find out more about our services click here. To download this article as a PDF click here.
Jack Cheng is a formidable lawyer and important part of the team at Queen City Law. In the past 5 years Jack has worked as a barrister at one of the most prestigious barristers chambers in Auckland. Over the years Jack has accumulated considerable experience in the field of criminal law. He frequently appears in the District Court and High Court criminal jurisdiction as lead or second counsel. He has also appeared in some of the most high profile and serious criminal trials in New Zealand. To read more about Jack click here.
As a general rule, authorities (such as Police, Customs, Immigration, IRD or other government agencies) can only search your premises with your consent or a search warrant. Only in limited circumstances can they search your premises without a warrant (for example, in case of an emergency or when they have reasonable grounds to believe that there are fire arms and/or drugs in the premise). Although a search is not something that anyone wishes to encounter, there are a few things you must know if authorities come knocking on your door asking to search your place:
• Make sure you ask to see the search warrant. No warrant, no entry.
• The authorities should tell you the reason for the search and the legislation they rely on to conduct the search so you have some ideas as to why they are here. You are entitled to ask for the reason in any event.
• If the authorities present a search warrant, they have the legal right to conduct the search. In such case, you should ask to speak to a lawyer immediately.
• If English is not your first language, ask for an interpreter or a lawyer who can speak your language.
Do not attempt to interfere with the officers conducting the search or attempt to dispose of any evidence at the scene. It will only make things worse and you could be arrested and charged with obstruction or perverting the course of justice.
• The authorities should advise you of your rights under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act – in simple terms it means that you are not obliged to answer any questions or make any statements and you have the right to speak to a lawyer without delay.
• Even if the authorities fail to advise you of the rights, you should be aware that other than confirming your identity you do not have to answer any questions. You must be aware that anything you say may be recorded and used as evidence in Court. Some officers may attempt to have a friendly chat with you in order to elicit information – do not talk to them.
• Make sure that the authorities only seize (take) items specified in the search warrant. At the end of the search, make sure you receive a list of all property taken and check that every item is accounted for. If the authorities refuse to do so or fail to do so ask to speak to your lawyer immediately.
• Do not attempt to interfere with the officers conducting the search or attempt to dispose of any evidence at the scene. It will only make things worse and you could be arrested and charged with obstruction or perverting the course of justice.
Search and seizure is a very technical and complicated area of law and issues of technicality or legality simply cannot be resolved while the search is taking place. For example, the validity of the search warrant and/or admissibility of evidence seized during the search is not an argument that you can win against the officers “on the spot”. If there is any procedural impropriety it is something that your counsel can challenge in Court at a later date. Any evidence that is improperly obtained may be excluded at the Court’s discretion.
It is understandable that a search is a very daunting and stressful experience. However, you can put yourself in the best position by remaining calm, co-operative and exercising your rights.
If you are questioned, detained or arrested by Police, your legal rights are:
- You have the right to consult and instruct a lawyer, in private and without delay
- You have the right to refrain from making a statement
- You have the right to ask why you are being questioned, detained, or arrested.
- Police have a list of the names and phone numbers of lawyers qualified to give advice and who have agreed to be contacted any time, day or night.
- Ask the Police for the list of Police Detention Legal Assistance Lawyers
Complaints against Police
If you believe the police have done something wrong, or that you were not treated fairly by the police you can make a formal complaint, to any one of the following: Telephone or write to the Independent Police Complaints Authority (link is external) (IPCA); PO Box 5025, Wellington, Ph 0800 503 728 – toll free within New Zealand, or (04) 499 2050. You can get a lot more information on the NZ Police website
If you are new to New Zealand make sure you find out about the Police and your rights with them. Get advice on crime prevention. You can Contact ethnic liaison officers working in your community. Or you can just go to any Police station and tell them you want to make a complaint against the police. If you want to make a written compliant then Write to the Commissioner of Police, PO Box 3017, Wellington
We also suggest that you click on Legal Checklists in our Practical Law Library as you will find useful information there which will assist you in every dispute scenario, we endeavour to:
1.Identify the legal issues and commercial drivers behind the dispute;
2.Align the dispute resolution strategy with the demands of our clients businesses;
3.Establish clear steps to attain our clients ultimate objectives;
4.Ensure sound lines of communication are opened and maintained with key stakeholders;
5.Ensure all progress is within our clients preferred time-frames;
6.Report succinctly and adhere to our clients budget.