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 does not always have to be in uniform but if they are 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 are doing in the area 

  • where you are going 

You do not have to stop or answer any questions. If you do not and there is no other reason to suspect you, then this alone cannot 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 are 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 are carrying a weapon or have used one 

  • you are in a specific location or area 

Before you are searched

Before you are 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 are hiding something 

  • why they are legally allowed to search you 

  • that you can have a record of the search and if this is not 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 are 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 does not mean you are being arrested.