10 Common Myths About Dealing with the Police
As former police prosecutors, we’ve heard just about every excuse ever raised in court. Here are 10 of the most common ones which are clearly just myths and urban legends. If you need to know what laws actually do apply to your situation call us for expert advice on all criminal and traffic matters.
1 – “The officer has to show me his badge number”
Thanks to the influence of American movies a lot of people believe that all Police have ‘badge numbers’ and that there is some obligation to disclose them. Police are obliged under section 202 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 to tell you their name and station when exercising certain powers. The unfortunate reality is if the Police are arresting you or issuing a fine you’ll receive paperwork which will always contain the officers name, rank and station anyway.
2 – “They didn’t read me my rights or get me an attorney”
Another American movie myth is that you have the right to an attorney and if you don’t have one then one will be appointed for you. Section 139 of the Evidence Act1995 sets out what Police have to say to you if they are suspect you may have committed an offence and they want to question you.
While they do have to tell you that you don’t have to say or do anything there is unfortunately no free attorney on offer in New South Wales.
3 – “An undercover cop has to tell you they’re a cop if you ask them directly”
There is absolutely no requirement for an undercover officer to tell you they are a police officer if you ask them. The common belief that they cannot lie in response to this question is just another myth. What an undercover police officer can and can’t do is governed by the Law Enforcement (Controlled Operations) Act 1997. They can’t encourage you to commit an offence you wouldn’t do without encouragement but they can certainly use any name or identity they like.
4 – “The officer wasn’t wearing a hat so the ticket is invalid”
This is one of the more bizarre myths out there. The story goes that Police can only issue tickets when in full uniform so if the hat isn’t on the ticket isn’t valid. While the Police guidelines say that police should wear their hats it certainly doesn’t have any effect on the validity of a fine. Think about it – even plain clothes police can issue fines.
5 – “The officer has to show me the radar or alcolizer reading”
People often demand to see the reading on a radar gun or the reading on a roadside breath test. With radar and lidar readings a lot of police now record the reading on their in-car video (ICV) so you’ll see it on the video if the matter goes to court. Police don’t show you roadside breath test readings as they can vary so much from the later reading at the station
6 – “Police are exempt from the Road Rules”
This one is generally true. Regulation 305 of the Australian Road Rules say that Police are exempt from the Road Rules if they are taking reasonable care and have their lights and sirens on. We say ‘generally true’ because it still has to be reasonable in the circumstances and it doesn’t exempt them from the more serious traffic offences in the Crimes Act. So when you see a Police car race past and people say things like, “Must be late for dinner” it’s probably not correct.
7 – “If you know a police officer they can cancel your tickets for you”
Police can cancel a ticket if it is a ticket that they have issued themselves and shortly after issuing it they become aware there is an error or it was improperly issued. The myth that you can call a cop you know and make your fines disappear is just that – a myth. You’re much better off calling us and we’ll represent you in court.
8 – “The Police can breath test me before I drive to make sure I’m under the limit”
People are often angry when the Police refuse to breath test them before they drive to check if they’re under the limit. Unfortunately Police have pretty strict directions not to do this because depending on how long someone has been drinking, when they had their last drink, etc their BAC (blood alcohol concentration) may be on the way up. No point telling you that you’re under the limit only to find that half an hour later you’re more than three times over it!
9 – “I’ve been arrested – I want my phone call”
You know all those movie scenes where someone is demanding their phone call from the cells? Well in NSW you have the right to communicate with a lawyer, friend or relative if you’re arrested however s.125 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 says that you can be denied this contact if the police believe you might doing something like contacting an accomplice who hasn’t been arrested yet or interfering with evidence or a witness. However, when you do get your phone call be sure to contact us anytime 24/7 so we can assist with your matter.
10 – “But there was no sign!”
People stopped and issued fines for various offences regularly argue that there was no sign so therefore the ticket is invalid. This is just another myth. Considering that there are hundreds of road rules that we all need to follow can you imagine what the roads would look like if there was a sign for every offence on every road?