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Criminal & traffic law

Entry powers: When the police can come into your home

Entry without a warrant to prevent or investigate crimes

When can the police enter without a warrant?

Search and Surveillance Act 2012, ss 7, 8, 14, 15

The police can enter your place without a warrant in the following situations:

  • Making an arrest – The police can come into your place to search for you and arrest you if they’ve got reasonable grounds to suspect you’ve committed an offence that’s punishable by a prison term. To be able to use this power the police have to have reasonable grounds to believe you’re at the place at that time and that if they don’t enter straightaway either you’ll leave or you’ll interfere with evidence. They can also enter to arrest you if there’s an arrest warrant out for you or if you’ve escaped from prison.
  • Preventing crimes – The police can enter to stop a criminal offence being committed that’s likely to cause someone to be injured, or serious damage to or serious loss of any property.
  • Seizing evidence – The police can enter your place if they’ve arrested you (whether at your place or somewhere else) and they’ve got reasonable grounds to believe there’s evidence at your place that will be destroyed or interfered with if they wait to get a warrant from a court. Also, if they think there’s evidence of a serious crime (one punishable by a jail term of 14 years or more, like rape or aggravated robbery), they can enter to seize it whether they’ve arrested you or not.
  • Emergencies – The police can enter when there’s an emergency threatening somebody’s life or safety.
  • Enforcing specific laws – A number of Acts allow the police or other officials to enter property without a warrant in order to enforce that particular Act, including the Land Transport Act 1998 (see the chapter “Driving and traffic law”), the Immigration Act 2009, and the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

Search and Surveillance Act 2012, s 131

Note: If the police officer isn’t in uniform, they have to show you their ID before they come in.

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