Powers to search and examine
There are two pieces of legislation that deal with police powers to search, make physical examinations of suspects and take samples - the Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA) and the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Act 2007 (SA).
There is some overlap between the Acts but in practice procedures that are routinely used to identify a suspect, such as fingerprinting and photographing, are governed by the Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA). Less commonly performed procedures, such as the taking of DNA samples, are governed by the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Act 2007 (SA).
When a person is taken into custody, the police may search and take anything they find upon her or him. Certain procedures have to be followed by police to ensure this is done in a humane way and with care [see generally procedures in s 81 Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA)].
Any reasonable examination can be carried out by a police officer or either a doctor or registered nurse (acting under direction of police), and reasonable force may be used. However for an intrusive search ( an internal search) has to be carried out by a doctor or registered nurse [s 81(2) Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA)].
People must be told before an intrusive search medical examination is arranged, and may have a medical practitioner of their choice witness the search (at their own cost) [Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA) s 81(2)(c)].
Taking fingerprints, voice recordings and handwriting samples
Once a person is suspected of a serious offence the police may take prints of hands, fingers, feet or toes [s 14 Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Act 2007 (SA)]; and/or make a recording of the person's voice and request a sample of handwriting [s 81 Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA)]. This must all be done humanely [see s 81(4g) Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA); s 21 Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Act 2007 (SA)].
The evidence is taken to help identify a person. Anyone who refuses to comply with a reasonable direction in relation to the obtaining of a sample of voice or hand writing faces a maximum penalty of three months imprisonment or a fine of $1250 [s 81(4e) Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA)].
Further information on suspects procedures is available in the Duty Solicitor Handbook.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.