Police powers to stop and search: your rights

The police can stop and question you at any time – they can also search you depending on the situation.

A police community support officer (PCSO) must be in uniform when they stop and question you. A police officer doesn’t always have to be in uniform but if they’re not wearing uniform they must show you their warrant card.

Stop and SEARCH: police powers

A police officer has the power to stop and search you, if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect you’re carrying the following:

  • Illegal drugs
  • A weapon
  • Stolen property
  • Something which could be used to commit a crime, such as a crowbar

You can only be stopped and searched without reasonable grounds if it has been approved by a senior police officer. This can happen if it is suspected that:

  • Serious violence could take place
  • You are carrying a weapon or have used one
  • You are in a specific location or area
Before you are searched

Before you are searched the police officer must tell you:

  • Their name and the name of the police station they are based
  • What they expect to find, for example drugs
  • The reason they want to search you, for example if it looks like you’re hiding something
  • Why they are legally allowed to search you, quoting the law
  • That you can have a record of the search and if this isn’t possible at the time, how you can get a copy
Removing clothing: police powers

A police officer can ask you to take off your coat, jacket or gloves.

The police might ask you to take off other clothes and anything you’re wearing for religious reasons – for example a veil or turban. If they do, they must take you somewhere out of public view.

If the officer wants to remove more than a jacket and gloves they must be the same sex as you.

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