How to deal with police

Please note, I derived the following suggestions to the best of my knowledge of Common Law, which still applies in Australia according to its Constitution. Police officers most likely have a different attitude of what they are entitled to, and might use force and/or intimidation to get what they want.

Stay calm, friendly and firm.

As soon as you loose your temper, you might forget any of the following suggestions, and do something stupid. Yet as long as you haven’t committed any crime, you have the rights that apply under Common Law for dealing with any requests from the police.

Identify yourself or not? 

At common law, a citizen is under no legal duty to identify himself or herself to the police. The exception to this principle is where the police see the person in question committing an offence. Victoria has introduced Statutory Laws that entitle police to identify you, but Statutory Laws require your consent to become binding. Demanding to be treated under common law cannot be treated as obstruction, however, police might coerce/intimidate you to contract with them.

Depending on how critical the situation is, you might want to film the conversation before answering any questions. Documenting your interactions with the police on video can provide valuable evidence in case of trouble.

Am I under arrest?

As long as you haven’t been caught committing a crime, you don’t need to cooperate with police. Talking to police can get quite repetitive, as they usually expect compliance. Remember, as long as you haven’t contracted with them, they are an authority for you, not over you.

What is the charge?

If police wants to arrest you, they have to name a charge against you. Not giving your ID isn’t a criminal offense, and isn’t obstruction either. Stay calm and ask them: “Under which law are you acting?” Remind them friendly that they don’t have authority over you unless you committed a crime.

Do you understand?

Never answer this question from a police officer with yes, unless you want to get into trouble. This term sounds like plain English, but it’s a special legalese term. By answering yes, you enter into a contract with the police officer, and agree not to be treated under common law, but statutory law. ‘Do you understand?’ translates into ‘Do you agree to stand under my authority?’ An adequate answer could sound like this: No, I do not stand under your authority. Being (or acting) stupid cannot be construed as a crime, if the police officer looses his/her calm on camera, the odds in a court case can be in your favour.

Under which authority are you acting?

Ask this question if police insists to request something you don’t want to do. Victoria Police display the Crown on their badges, which means they have sworn an allegiance to the Queen. The Queen warrants that anyone is entitled to be treated under common law, which most police officers have not the faintest clue about. However, as long as you know your rights, stay calm, friendly and firm, police officers can held liable for infringing your (god-given) rights. Depending on how confident you feel, you might remind the police about their unlawful activity, best when it’s documented on camera.

Public space is public.

Although some statutory laws have been made for move-on orders and random searches, these have to be announced a week in advance. Unless you’re breaching the peace, police have no right to ask you to leave a public spot. If you breached the peace, police have to explain first how you did it.

More about space

While freedom of movement seems obvious for public space, different rules apply for private property. Although being technically private property, places of business are basically similar to public spaces. Interfering with political protest in places of business is therefor similar to interfering with it in public space.

Crimes Act 1914 – Section 14 / Interfering with political liberty

Any person who, by violence and threat of intimidation of any kind, hinders or interferes with the free exercise or performance, by any other person, of any political right or duty, shall be guilty of an offense.

Penalty: Imprisonment for 3 years.

Translated into common language this means police breaking up a protest are usually committing a crime, punishable by 3 years of prison.

Know your rights.

If you’re planning to do direct action, investigate as best as you can the legal situation you’re entering into. Stay calm, friendly and firm when explaining to police your understanding of the law. Police doesn’t the law most of the time, but usually can be stopped in their tracks if reminded that they are breaking laws by what they do or want to do.

Common Law is simple.

As long as you avoid contracting with police, your intuitive idea about right and wrong most likely reflects common law. However, as police is trained to follow orders, it might save you from harm to comply when threatened with violence. If you have given your ID without committing a crime, or answered to “Do you understand?” with yes, you already contracted with police, and therefor entered the area of corporate law, which acts against the interest of citizens.


Comments, corrections and additions are welcome. I wrote all of this to the best of my knowledge, based on my research and understanding of the legal system. Knowing your rights might not save you from arrest or other problems with police, but will provide a sound basis for potential court proceeding. Use with care and sound judgement.

Posted on October 24, 2012, in Australia, Law & Government and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Nicely written, I like the attitude here, it always helps to be nice about what you do, for the police are not really the problem as much as following orders with blind obedience. If you make them think about what they are actually doing they are far more responsive to your position.
    The funny thing is the police have hard times ahead of them, look at what’s going on overseas… frankly i would rather avoid all that and solve the problem before it deteriorates further.

  2. i think the advice about keeping calm is great, it never hurts to be reminded of this. but where is the evidence for all these claims? can you please provide references so we can know that this isn’t just something that you personally believe?

    i also don’t see anything in here about demanding a lawyer, to see a doctor if you have been injured or your right to phone calls. you have the right to call someone [friend or family or whoever you want] & a lawyer. if you have been arrested you have a right to demand a lawyer, & that is the advice i have always been given, just keep saying “am i under arrest?” & if you are, keep asking for a lawyer & saying “no comment until i see a lawyer.” this can result in you being in custody for longer & it may seem easier in the short term to just sign whatever they put in front of you to get away quicker, that’s a decision you have to make yourself but you do have the right to see a lawyer & it can help you avoid getting into more trouble. so if the action that you were arrested during has legal support call that number or legal aid [there are a lot of numbers & resources on this site: including links for Indigenous people & people under 18 who [i believe but i haven’t checked lately] have to have a guardian present during the interview. i don’t think the police can interview someone under 18 on their own.

    if you can’t afford a lawyer say that & you can have a duty lawyer without having to pay. just for re-emphasis you have the right to call someone like a friend AND the right to call a lawyer, so you can make 2 phone calls, calling for legal aid doesn’t count as your phone call.

    if you have been injured during arrest you can demand to see a doctor, just keep saying “i am injured, i need a doctor.” again, this may mean that you are in custody longer so you will have to decide that for yourself, but it is a right you have & please don’t let any other advice you might hear stop you from getting medical attention, especially if you have been hit on the head or may have fractures or neck/back injuries from being dragged or trampled. it can help a lot to get the injuries documented as soon as possible, but the main reason is that you can be pretty seriously injured even without obvious bruises etc & you need to get that checked ASAP. if you have any medical conditions, especially things like asthma, diabetes or epilepsy or you are pregnant or have a disibility you should tell the arresting officer & keep telling them. if you are on any medications that are on a schedule tell the police &/or the doctor you see & your lawyer, they have to allow you to take you medication, give you your ventolin inhaler etc. if you have a mental illness it can be a bit more complicated, i don’t know if you have the right to contact your own doctor or if that would count as your personal phone call. either way if you have to take medicine & you don’t have it with you when you are arrested you should let them know ASAP.

    so these are my comments, i am definitely not a lawyer or any kind of legal expert, but there is a lot of information on this website: that i strongly recommend people reading this now visit & become familiar with rather than relying on the above statements & opinions. i’m not saying getting an actual lawyer is a perfect solution or that people shouldn’t learn as much about the law themselves, just that these are your rights & can save you a lot of grief if you know about them. there is also information on there about how quickly they have to process you & bring you in front of a judge [ie if you are arrested at night or on a weekend it may not be until the next business day] that you need to know about & take into account if you are considering an arrestable action but have other commitments, ie kids or pets, work/study etc. obviously if you didn’t do anything wrong say that to the lawyer & any advice they give you is just advice, never sign or agree to anything you don’t want to even if a lawyer advises you to & you don’t have to do what they advise. it’s very important that you know about your right to call someone & that people know you have been arrested & know which station you are being held in so you don’t get “lost in the system.”

    another comment i want to make is that in reality the police don’t care if you agree or consent to be arrested or not, they can just arrest you anyway. mostly i strongly doubt that they care about your opinions about the law or how you personally interpret the law. on the issue of whether to identify yourself or not, i think [but as i said, i’m not a lawyer or legal expert] that if you don’t identify yourself they can hold you until they do know what your identity is, which they will do sooner or later anyway. there are political reasons to not identify yourself, not carry ID at arrestable actions etc, but these [in my opinion] are more to do with clogging up the system during actions where there is the likelihood of mass arrest, so you have to make your own decision, based on how long you can afford to be in custody & as i said, the fact that they will identify you sooner or later, about whether you will identify yourself at the time of arrest or not.

    my final comment is that i don’t agree at all with this statement: “Remember, as long as you haven’t contracted with them, they are an authority for you, not over you.” i would like to see some evidence, other than just statements of opinion, that if you say things like “i understand” that constitutes a legally binding contract & that you are agreeing to a contract & that by not saying this, it binds the police to agree to not act in certain ways or that they can’t arrest you. i also don’t agree that under any circumstances the police are an “authority for you” – i think this ignores the long & continuing history of the police being used to enforce racism & oppression, even if they ever were “an authority for me” i wouldn’t want them to be.

    • The advice given so far is to prevent getting arrested in the first place.

      After you get arrested, it is a different story and your advice is good for that situation.

      If you have quoted all the laws given and have a recording of the event for a court case you will be in a much stronger position legally. Even the lowest court in Victoria, the magistrates court, costs $3000 per hour to run and it will take many hours for the police to chase a $200 fine. The court will not be pleased about dealing with such non profitable matters, if the police keep bringing them to the court.

      Not getting arrested is a far more preferable situation.

      Yes you may audio and video record any conversation you are a party to, regardless of whether the other party is police officer or not, or whether they are aware that you are recording the conversation.
      Sometimes telling the police you are recording them is enough to make them leave.

      Multiple recordings with video are better.

      If you dig deep enough into law you will find that all law is commercial law, and in many cases the police are just another business offering a service (arrest and fines) that you don’t want.

  3. I think the most relevant sections of the law are:

    Crimes act 1914 section 28

    Interfering with political liberty
    Any person who, by violence or by threats or intimidation of any kind, hinders or interferes with the free exercise or performance, by any other person, of any political right or duty, shall be guilty of an offence.
    Penalty: Imprisonment for 3 years.


    Australian Constitution section 109

    When a law of a State is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth, the latter shall prevail, and the former shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be invalid.

    Ask lots of questions about whether they ‘understand’ the law because most likely they don’t.

    Play the contract game on them, asking them if they ‘understand’.
    It’s possible to trip them up occasionally.

    In many cases they will get frustrated and confused and begin to become wary of a legal trap you are setting and simply leave.

    If you are in a rush you can just say “There is no general move on in a protest” this works quite well.

    Just like any predator, the police are looking for an easy target to single out, don’t be that target, and back up your mates if they are targeted.

    Though I’d love to her the opinion of people more versed in law.

  4. As far as I know the above article is based on actual law, it’s just that most people don’t know it. If the police do arrest you for nothing and you never said “I understand” they can be held liable in a court of law. If they arrest you or move you on for protesting they can also be held liable. Most people don’t know this stuff and automatically believe they have to give ID nd can be arrested for anything. This is not the case according to constituional rights and the article is trying to clear that up.

  5. Like Occupymelbournenet stated, once your arrested, it’s a different situation. I checked before writing this, but refrained from advising this site, as it refers to commercial law, not common law, and applies more for actual arrest situations.

    Lawyers are knowledgable in commercial law, but my advise was mainly to prevent falling into this trap in first place. From my own experience, using this strategy prevented me so far from getting arrested and identifying myself, albeit in not too hairy situations.

    I agree that the police often shows a different attitude, but as there’s still human beings beyond their clown uniform. If a situation has already escalated, the advise given above isn’t worth much, but it’s rather intended as a pro-active approach, especially useful before orders are given to move protestors on or beat them up.

    The current government and its enforcement is unconstitutional ( ), which doesn’t stop police and courts acting as if they were lawful instances. As long as most people believe in the authority of police and courts, they continue their fraudulent game unimpeded.

    As long as one doesn’t resist, police will do as they please, but in protest situations having a group of people reminding them of the unlawfulness of their actions can help. At the end, everyone has decide for themselves how to react, and once things go to court, common law defences need more thorough backing.

  6. Commerce. look at the ensign (aka flag) of Victoria police.

    White tassels at the border denoting a commercial operation. Confirm this in on the last line of page 3.
    the Flag of the USA in court rooms has a yellow tassel for the same reason, it’s a commercial ensign of enterprise, not a function of government.

    This may seem weird and somewhat tangential, but this is how it all works. Welcome to the rabbit hole Alice.

    Here’s a clue, while there is no practical reason why a courtroom could not be constructed of any building material, there is always some unpainted wood to be seen. why do you think that is?

  7. Please,it is “lose”, not “loose”.
    Reduces your credibility immensely.

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