In recent years the interest and popularity of crime shows has increased dramatically. With the advent of reality television, crime is often seen as it happens in real time to ordinary citizens. However, despite the appearance that these crimes are an accurate representations of what happens when police interact with members of the public, this is not always the case. It is important to remember that all forms of media are subject to editing, which can lead people to believe that circumstances are different from actuality.

It has been theorised that that the popularity of crime entertainment has led the public to believe that crime is on the rise in Australia, as well as giving the misconception that victimisation is also increasing. However, research has shown that there has actually been a reduction in crime in New South Wales since 1998. This finding is not linked to the abundance of crime television available for public consumption, but rather, it is supported by statistics that show that crime has decreased, and yet, research shows that the public’s opinion is that crime is increasing.

In some regions certain addictive crime shows which combine tantalising depictions of real crimes and police activity with uncanny reality, have been banned from being aired. The local communities charged with adjudicating these crimes believe that the television portrayal of real life criminal activity is influencing the judicial process as a whole. Such influence can be dangerous to the fair and just outcome of these illegal actions.

While this type of entertainment is exciting and edgy, it is important to remember that it is designed and produced for the purpose of entertaining the public. Therefore, it is imperative to keep in mind that the types of scenarios depicted may not always reflect the reality of the work of the police or the nature of the crimes committed.

As such, when dealing with the police in your community it is more important that you be aware of your true rights and responsibilities and those of law enforcement officials. There are various valid reasons why a police officer might detain you or arrest you. These include;

  • There is evidence by your behaviour that you have committed a crime
  • You are disturbing the peace
  • An investigation is occurring and you are a named suspect
  • Bail conditions have been breached
  • There is a warrant out for your arrest
  • An Apprehended Violence Order needs to be served on you

Searching your person is one of the next actions an officer may chose to take if they are arresting you. It is important that above all else you remain calm and cooperative. It is appropriate for you to ask the office some simple questions before consenting to being searched. These questions include;

  • Why is the search necessary?
  • If you believe that the search is unreasonable, you may say so at this time
  • At this point it can be smart to allow the search to occur because resisting can create greater problems at the scene and later down the line

The officer is required to perform the search in the least invasive means possible. It is also required that the search be done quickly and allowing for reasonable privacy. The search should be done by an officer of the same gender as the arrested individual and, it should not touch the genitals or breasts of the person being searched. Lastly, the officer is not allowed to question you during the search.

However, before an officer can proceed with the search they are required to tell you the following;

  • That you are under arrest
  • Why you are being arrested
  • Why you are being searched
  • Their name and the station they are assigned their duties from

During the entire process you have the right to remain silent and the eventual right to contact legal counsel. The majority of the time it is highly recommended that an arrestee invoke these very basic rights.

In less serious incidents the police may ask you to move along. If a protest or demonstration is orderly and not causing any disruption, the officers do not have the right to ask the participants to dissipate. However, the officer(s) so have the right to request this of the public for the following reasons;

  • There is serious risk to the safety of the participants
  • The demonstration is obstructing traffic
  • Engaging in behaviour that is intimidating or harmful to others

In the event that you are asked to move on from a public forum, the police will ask for your cooperation in complying with the request. At this juncture it will always be in your best interests to do as requested. In the event that you refuse to move on, the officer is required to tell you that you must comply. If you refuse to heed the order, the officer may decide to place you under arrest as failure to comply is considered an offence.

The experience of possible arrest, or being asked to move along, are the two most likely ways in which someone might be exposed to the more frightening aspects of police power. And, while these same scenarios are depicted on television, it is imperative to remember that television scenarios are not always accurate in their content. Therefore, it is always best to assume that the circumstances are presented for public entertainment, and may not reflect the reality of law enforcement or citizen’s rights and responsibilities. As such, it is always best to be well informed of the actual workings of the laws and their enforcement within your community.

In the event that you are faced with these particular issues and concerns, please contact the offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.