What is Considered Reasonable Force in NSW?


Like the general public, the police have certain rules they need to obey.

If police have reason to suspect that you have committed an offence, they are allowed to arrest you.

If you resist arrest, they are allowed to use a certain amount of force to restrain you – but this force can only be what is considered ‘reasonable’.

What is considered reasonable force in NSW depends on the severity of the suspected offence, and the level of violence involved if you resist arrest.

If you believe that police have used more than reasonable force to arrest you, or that they continued to use force or were physically aggressive towards you after there was no need, you may be able to make an official complaint.

Unlawful use of force by police when arresting a suspect is classified as assault.

How much force can police use to arrest me?

A reasonable level of force can be difficult to determine, particularly after the event has taken place.

Police are legally entitled to use as much force as is necessary to restrain you, and take you to a police station, but no more.

This means that if you resist arrest strongly, they are able to use a higher level of force to arrest you than if you put up a mild resistance or none at all.

Once you have submitted to being arrested, police are not allowed to continue to use force or to strike you or kick you, although they are allowed to put handcuffs on you if they believe you may try to escape.

If police continued to use force once you submitted to the arrest, make sure you advise your lawyer as soon as possible so they can help you take further action.

Can police use force to search me after arrest?

If you have been arrested, police are allowed to search you at the police station. If you resist being searched by police after arrest, they can use force to search you.

There are strict requirements that police have to abide by when they are searching suspects.

Where possible, the officer performing the search should be the same gender as the person they are searching, and they are not allowed to perform a body cavity search unless authorised specifically to do so.

If police want to search you after arrest, it is generally best to submit to the search.

If you are not under arrest, and police want to search you and you refuse, in some cases, they can arrest you and use force to search you at the police station.

What should I do if police have used more than reasonable force in NSW?

If you have reason to believe that police have used an unnecessary amount of force to arrest you or search you, or they have acted in an overly aggressive manner, you may be able to lodge a formal complaint.

Make sure you take the details of any officers involved, and contact a lawyer as soon as possible after the incident.

If you have any injuries as a result of the force used against you, make sure you see a medical practitioner as soon as possible, and if you can, take photographs of any visible damage.

If police have acted unlawfully, you can instruct your criminal lawyer to make a complaint to the NSW Police Service, or to register a complaint to the NSW Ombusman or to take legal action in the NSW Courts.

If you take legal action, you may be eligible for compensation and the officer or officers involved may end up facing disciplinary proceedings.


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About Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers, Sydney's leading firm of criminal and traffic defence lawyers.
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