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Personal Searches Without a Warrant

Personal searches without a warrant are regulated by section 21 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002, which states that a police officer may, without a warrant, stop, search and detain a person, and anything the person possesses or controls, if the officer “suspects on reasonable grounds” that the person has in his or her possession or under his or her control:

  1. Anything stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained
  2. Anything used, or intended for use, in the commission of an offence
  3. Any dangerous article which is in a public place provided the article is being used, or was used, in the commission of an offence, or
  4. Any prohibited plant or prohibited drug.

A ‘dangerous article’ is defined as:

  1. A firearm, firearm barrel or firearm ammunition
  2. A prohibited weapon
  3. A spear gun
  4. An article or device (other than a firearm) capable of discharging:

(a) Any irritant in liquid, powder, gas or chemical form or any dense smoke, or

(b) Any substance capable of causing bodily harm

  1. A fuse for an explosive or detonator, or
  2. A detonator.

‘Prohibited drugs’ are those listed in the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985, and include cannabis, amphetamines, cocaine and heroin.

A ‘public place’ is a place or part of a premises that is open to, or used by the public, whether or not for payment, and whether or not only open only to a limited class of persons, this includes privately owned places that are open to the public.

An officer can search a person in the absence of a reasonable suspicion if the person to be searched gives informed consent.

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