Police powers to stop and search: your rights
The police can stop and question you at any time - they can 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 question: police powers
A police officer might stop you and ask:
- what your name is
- what you’re doing in the area
- where you’re going
You don’t have to stop or answer any questions. If you don’t and there’s no other reason to suspect you, then this alone can’t be used as a reason to search or arrest you.
Stop and search: police powers
A police officer has powers to stop and search you if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect you’re carrying:
- 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’re carrying a weapon or have used one
- you’re in a specific location or area
Before you’re searched
Before you’re searched the police officer must tell you:
- their name and police station
- 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
- 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.
Being searched doesn’t mean you’re being arrested.