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What are my rights if the police want to stop and search me? [Criminal law]

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What Are My Rights if the Police Want to Stop and Search Me?

Your Legal Rights During a Stop and Search

Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) in the United Kingdom, the police have certain powers to stop and search individuals. However, you are protected by law and have specific rights. The police must have reasonable grounds to suspect that you are carrying illegal drugs, a weapon, stolen property, or something that could be used to commit a crime. They must stop you in a public place and conduct the search in a respectful and non-discriminatory manner.

Procedure the Police Must Follow

During a stop and search, the police are required to follow particular procedures: - **Introduction and Reason:** The officer must introduce themselves, provide their name and station, explain why they are stopping you, and inform you of what they expect to find. - **Documentation:** They should provide you with a written record of the search immediately or let you know how you can get a copy later. - **Conducting the Search:** The search should take place privately if more than just your outer clothing needs to be removed (e.g., hat, gloves, jacket). If it is necessary to remove more than this, it must be conducted out of public view, ideally at a police station.

Your Right to Refuse Certain Searches

You have the right to refuse a search if the officer does not follow the correct procedures. For example, if they fail to provide their name and reason for the search, or if their behavior is not professional and respectful, you can challenge the search based on these grounds. However, outright refusal without valid reason may lead to arrest. It is safer to comply and later report any misconduct.

After the Stop and Search

If you believe that the search was not conducted fairly or legally, you can file a complaint with the police force that conducted the search. Additionally, you can seek advice from legal professionals or organizations specializing in civil liberties, such as Liberty, to explore further actions, including potential claims for compensation if your rights were violated.

Special Powers Under Anti-Terrorism Laws

There are certain scenarios under specific legislation, such as the Terrorism Act 2000, where the police have broader stop-and-search powers without needing reasonable suspicion. In such cases, higher standards of accountability and oversight are required. Nevertheless, your rights to respectful treatment and proper procedural conduct still apply.


Understanding your rights during a stop and search can make the process less intimidating and help ensure that the police conduct themselves appropriately. Make sure to stay informed and seek legal advice if you believe your rights have been infringed during a stop and search.
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