When can the police conduct a search of property or a person without a warrant?

by The FindLaw Team

Many readers will probably be aware that when entering into a private property or conducting a personal search, the police will need a warrant to undertake such actions. However, there are certain circumstances when entry and search without a warrant is allowed by law, which this piece will broadly cover.

A suspected crime is about to be committed

It was held in the New South Wales Supreme Court in Kennedy v Pagura [1977] 2 NSWLR 870 that a police officer has the right to enter into any private premises for effecting an arrest. The power to enter premises if a police officer believes on reasonable grounds that the person has committed an offence is also reflected in legislation, such as s 9 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW) for example.

Additionally, a police officer may enter into any premises if they reasonably believe that it is necessary to end or prevent a breach of peace.

Arrest on premises

If a person has been arrested on the premises, the police may conduct a personal search of the person arrested. However, the police may not be able to conduct a broader search of the wider premises.

Domestic violence

If a police officer believes on reasonable grounds that a domestic violence offence is being, or may have been committed, or is imminent, or is likely to be committed in a dwelling, the police officer may enter the dwelling if invited by any person who lives in the dwelling to investigate whether a domestic violence offence has been committed, or to prevent the commission of a domestic violence offence.

Personal searches

When searching a person, the police may stop, search and detain any individual reasonably suspected of having in their possession:

  • anything that is stolen;
  • obtained unlawfully; or
  • intended for use in committing a serious offence. 

Personal searches for dangerous weapons

The police on reasonable grounds may search any person suspected of having a dangerous implement that can include knives, firearms or any implement that is made or adapted to cause injury to another person. Furthermore, an area known for a high incidence of violent crime may also be enough of a justification to conduct a search of a person.

Search after arrest

After a person has been arrested, the police may conduct a search immediately on the person and any property considered to be dangerous, or related to an offence may be seized.

Search after being charged

A person who has been charged with an offence and are in lawful custody, anything found on the person may be seized.


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