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In the UK, the police are often present around city centres to keep you safe and to keep an eye on everything. It is reassuring to know you can go to them if you need their help or feel unsafe.

Being stopped by the police is more common nowadays due to the government’s COVID-19 restrictions. So, on the unlikely chance that you get stopped by UK police, it is useful to know your rights and what to do.

A police officer can legally stop you and question you at any time, and they can also search you if the officer has reason to suspect criminal activity. Community police officers must be in full uniform to stop and question people, but because this is not always required, the officers must show you their identification and warrant card.

As we mentioned above, due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions, it is quite ordinary to be stopped and asked a few questions.  The government’s restrictions have asked UK citizens to minimise their time spent outside and police need to monitor how people are responding during the lockdown.

An officer might ask you:

  • What is your full name?
  • Where are you going? Or, where have you been?
  • How far have you travelled?

Unfortunately, if you are out during lockdown and do not have an essential reason, you could be fined. Some of the essential reasons that you can leave the house for during lockdown are:

  • Shopping for food and medicine.
  • For your daily exercise.
  • To care for a vulnerable person.
  • Work travel if you are a key worker.
  • For an emergency.

When stopped and asked by the police, you are not legally obliged to answer their questions, but it is common courtesy to just answer and get on with your day. You can also use your right to remain silent if you like.

Can the police search me?

The police can only search you if they have strong evidence of criminal activity and before they search you, they must give you information such as their name, police station and the reason they want to search you. Also, the police must tell you if you can have a record of the search and how to get a copy.

It is important to know that if the police have no grounds to issue a warrant, you can explain to them they do not have the right to search you.  But if they have grounds to warrant a search and have provided you with their police ID and their reason for the search, you cannot legally refuse.

What are my rights if I am stopped while driving?

The police can stop people while driving and ask them to see their driving documents or check the car. Due to the current COVID-19 travel restrictions, it is more likely that you are just stopped for a ‘stop and account’, which is just like being stopped outside in the street.

The same rules apply; an explanation of why you have been stopped must be provided and you should be given a record of their report.

Please keep in mind that during the lockdown the police has been instructed to encourage the public to follow the government’s advice, and if don’t comply with the rules you can be fined or arrested.

If you have any questions about your legal or personal rights or feel you have been treated unjustly, please get in touch by using our contact form and our criminal lawyers will be able to help you.