You are entitled to certain inherent rights as a citizen of Australia. Those privileges remain in place should you be suspected of an offence, and police seek to speak with you. Do you know your rights, and what is required of you under Australian law? Having a firm grasp on your legal obligations — as well as those of the authorities — can be the difference between a conviction and being cleared for lack of evidence.
If you are a suspect, are the subject of an ongoing investigation or have been formally charged, keep the following things in mind when police request to talk with you on the record:
1. You have the right to remain silent — to a point
Always remember that silence is your right: You are not required to answer most questions that police ask you, whether you have been stopped in the street, have agreed to go back to police precincts or are placed under arrest. However, the right to remain silent comes with a caveat. For example, if they want to know your name, your street address and date of birth, you are obligated to provide police with these basic pieces of information. Sections 40 and 791 of the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act is what gives officers this authority. While you may have the freedom to not honour their request, it can result in a charge of contravening direction.
2. You're not required to participate in a recorded interrogation
It is possible that when the police approach you, they will ask you to make a statement on the record, which usually means the interview will be taped on a digital device. This is not something that you have to do under Australian law, no matter where the interrogation is held. That said, if you choose not to participate, you may be required to explain in writing that this is your decision.
On the other hand, if you agree to an interview, be aware that it will almost certainly be recorded, and the things that you say could be used against you if your case winds up going to trial. The words you say could also affect how you are sentenced in the event you are found guilty. While it is possible that the recorded interview may ultimately be inadmissible, that will only be the case if police somehow overstep their boundaries during the interrogation itself. In short, you are taking a calculated risk by agreeing to the interview and need to be very careful about what you divulge.
3. Police do not have to tell you the truth about what they do or do not know
Understand that the ultimate goal for a police officer is to obtain a conviction if they have reason to believe that you are guilty of the alleged incident in question. Because of this, they do not necessarily have to be entirely forthcoming about their understanding of the event and your involvement in it. For example, if the police say they know that you were at the scene of a crime, they may only be saying so to get you to confess.
In short, while you are required to always speak truthfully, police do not have the same obligation.
4. You can have a lawyer with you during the interview
The first move you make after being charged is contacting a lawyer. There are many reasons as to why, but a crucial one is related to participating in an interview. A lawyer can provide you with guidance on whether submitting to the interview makes sense. They can also be with you during the interrogation itself, so you do not have to go through it alone. However, your lawyer cannot interfere once it begins.
5. Interviews are rarely determinative
While interrogations are part of just about every criminal charge in Australia, the ironic thing about them is they do not amount to much. This means that if you think that the charges (or suspicion) will be dropped by agreeing to an interview, this is rarely the case. Conversely, it is unusual for interrogations to be the linchpin for the prosecution sealing a conviction.
With proper legal advice, you can ensure your rights are protected and defended if you have been charged. Russo Lawyers is committed to that quality assurance. Please contact us for representation you can trust and that gets results.