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Communtity Law Manual | Police powers | What you can do about an unreasonable or illegal search

Search powers: When the police can search you, your home or your things

What you can do about an unreasonable or illegal search

What can I do if the police conduct an illegal or unreasonable search?

New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, s 21

A search will be illegal if the police went outside their powers. New Zealand’s Bill of Rights also protects people from unreasonable search and seizure. Whether a search is unreasonable will depend on all the circumstances surrounding the search and the way it was carried out.

If you think a police search of you, your home or your things was illegal or unreasonable, you can complain to the Independent Police Conduct Authority: see in this chapter, “Complaining about the police”.

You could also bring a civil court case for money (damages) under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act – for example, to get the police to pay for the cost of any damage they caused to your things.

If a search was illegal or unreasonable, or both, and the police bring charges against you in court, the judge may decide not to allow the police to use anything they found in the search as evidence against you. The judge will take into account what the police did and how serious it was, how serious the charges against you are, and the quality of the particular evidence the police want to bring to court and how important it is to their case against you.

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