The Rodger Wright Centre

You and The Police

These pages are meant as a guide only and are in no way meant to replace the advice of a lawyer. While every attempt is made to ensure that this data is correct, we would still remind you to talk with a lawyer should you be havinglegal problems.

1. You and the police

If you find that you are in trouble with the police and have been taken to the police station, you can ask to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. It is the lawyer's job to help and advise you. They are there to look after yourrights and to see that you are treated according to the law, regardless of whether you've committed a crime. If you have your own lawyer then you may ask to contact them. Most police stations have a list of lawyers who are able to be phoned out of hours to provide you with advice. Often it isbetter not to make a statement until you have spoken to a lawyer.

2.  Contacts  with the police

When you are stopped by or questioned by a police officer you should:

Make sure that the person is a genuine police officer. Both plain clothed and officers in uniform must carry and show their ID card on demand.

Always remember be very careful that what you say or write for the police is exactly what you mean and do not agree to anything that you do not understand; it could be extremly important and may effect the outcome for you or other people. Don't lie.If the police catch you out on one lie then they will make you prove everything you say. If they suspect you have committed a crime, you have the right to say nothing about the matter until you've spoken to a lawyer. It won't help if you argue or cop an attitude with a police officer.State clearly what you have to say and leave it at that. Remember that bullshit only grows mushrooms. 

If a friend is arrested or spoken to by the police, get help from a lawyer or from your friend's family. Do not interfere as the police do not like home trained lawyers, and if you're not careful you may find you are facing chargesyourself.

Any person under 17 years old has special rights. So make sure you ask about them, we have included them futher on.

3.  Powers of the police

When the police ask you to stop:

You should stop. If in a vehicle the driver must stop and whether or not your are driving, if asked you must give your name, address and all details required to identify you.

Question you:

If you have been arrested, you must give your name, address, occupation and date and place of birth. If a vehicle is involved, you must give the name and details of its owner, hirer or driver, and if you are the owner or hirer, you must give thenames and details of the driver and passengers. It's your decision whether you answer any other questions - you don't have to. You are entitled to talk to your lawyer before you answer any other questions or make a written or spoken statement.

Ask you to go with them:

You don't have to go with the police unless:  

you agree to do so; or

you are arrested; or

a member of the police suspects you have been driving after drinking too much alcohol or under the influence of drugs. If you are arrested or suspected of drinking and driving, go quietly or there may be more charges. Ask to talk to a lawyer as soonas possible - either your own or one from the list (see "You and the police" above).

Want to search you or your home:

They can search your home or other premises such as your office:

if you agree; or

if they have a warrant; or

they can search you and your home with or without a search warrant if they are searching for such things as drugs, weapons or explosives.

Ask to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible for legal advice about whether you should agree to any search.

4.   Special rights for children and young people:

The powers of the police to arrest and to question those under 17 are restricted.

A child or young person is entitled to have a lawyer or another adult present when the police are taking a statement from him or her.

The police officer must explain to the child or young person his or her rights.

Ask the police officer about these rights and if you are uncertain speak to a lawyer before a child or young person is interviewed.

5.  Fingerprints and photographs:  

If you're arrested, you must give your fingerprints and allow a photograph of yourself to be taken.

The police might also take your fingerprints as part of the routine investigation of a crime. This does not mean that you are under suspicion. The police may want to be able to rule out the fingerprints of innocent people where the fingerprints werefound - for instance, your fingerprints in your own home. It's your decision whether you give your prints and if you do, the police should destroy those prints after they've finished checking. In some situations, and where the court orders it or you consent, the police may take blood samplesfor the purpose of DNA analysis.

6.  At the police station:

If you are at the police station because the police suspect you might have committed a crime:

If you haven't been arrested :

It's your decision whether you answer any questions or make any written or spoken statement - you don't have to do so. You do not need to have had a formal question and answer session for the police to record what you have said and for this possiblyto be used as evidence against you. You're entitled to talk to your lawyer before you make any written or spoken statement, and it's always best to do so.

The police are increasingly using videos for recording interviews and these can be played in court as part of the police case. You have a right to decline this and, as with any other statement, you should speak to a lawyer before deciding what todo.

You may leave the police station when you wish. (But if you are there for a breath or blood/alcohol test and leave before the test has been completed you will commit an offence and probably be arrested.)

There is no such thing as an "off the record" conversation or statement to the police.

If you have been arrested:

Give your name, address, occupation and date and place of birth.

The police have the right to search, fingerprint and photograph you.

You have the right to consult and instruct a lawyer without delay in private and without cost if using one from the roster. The police should contact the lawyer you wish to see (although if that lawyer is not on the roster, there may be a cost).There should be a list of lawyers at the police station. If you don't have a lawyer, ask for the list and pick one. If that lawyer is not available, ring another one.

Police rules state that normally a friend or a relative named by you is to be told by the police that you've been arrested. Also, normally a relative or friend may visit you.

Ask to be released on bail. You don't have an automatic right to be bailed by the police but in many cases bail will be given. You'll then have to appear in court on the day mentioned on the summons form.

If you don't see a lawyer before you're taken to court, make sure you see the duty solicitor at court. This is another free legal service.

7.  Complaints about the police:

If you have a complaint about the police, it's important to act quickly. You can:

See a lawyer for advice and, if necessary, a doctor or photographer also.

Discuss your complaint with the senior police officer of the main police station in the area.

Make a formal complaint to the police.

Make a formal complaint to the Police Complaints Authority, PO Box 5025, (89 The Terrace), Wellington 6145, telephone (04) 499-2050 or freephone 0800-503-728.

In appropriate cases, make a claim in the courts.

Find out the name or number of the police officer involved and write this down as soon as possible together with a description of what happened (including the time and place of the incident you want to complain about). If your complaint is serious,you'll want a lawyer to help you and this statement will be important and valuable. See a lawyer as soon as you can.

8.  Do the right thing - see your lawyer first:

Consulting your lawyer early on can save you anxiety and money by preventing a small problem from getting bigger and becoming more costly to fix.

Lawyers deal with many personal, family, business and property matters and transactions. No one else has the training and experience to advise you on matters relating to the law. If the lawyer you consult does not have the knowledge to deal withyour particular problem, he or she will be able to refer you to a lawyer who specialises in that area of law. If other advice is needed, your lawyer will know of an accountant, valuer or other specialist who can help you.

What will it cost?

Like other professional people, your lawyer charges for time, experience and skill in looking after your affairs. Ask at the beginning about the likely cost - or tell your lawyer that you don't want to spend more than a certain sum without thelawyer checking with you. If you are on a low income and there is the possibility of court proceedings, ask whether you might qualify for legal aid.

Your own independent lawyer

You are free to choose your own lawyer for independent advice. You do not have to use the same lawyer as someone else with whom you may be in a relationship or doing business, in fact sometimes people are each required to have independent legaladvice. It is important you have confidence that your lawyer is acting for you.

Your lawyer will:

treat your business as completely confidential

give you independent advice

use his or her skills for your benefit

provide value for what you have to pay

Finding a lawyer

If you do not have a lawyer:

ask friends or relatives to recommend one to you;

Look in the Yellow Pages under "lawyers" or "barristers and solicitors";

Inquire at a citizens advice bureau or community law centre;

Check these websites: 

Contact your local district law society:

Auckland (including Northland, South Auckland, Coromandel)


Waikato Bay of Plenty (including Taupo)



(06)867 7874

Hawkes Bay








Wellington (including Wairarapa)









(03)768 0295






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