Writing Crime – When Can Police Search Premises?

Writing Crime - When Can Police Search Premises-In this weeks policing post we are going to look at the powers of entry. The power to enter a person’s property.

As a police officer, what powers does your police officer – if you’re writing one, – have to enter property? Can they just go in because they feel like it? I think most people know that they can’t.

There are many different powers allocated to officers to allow them entry into a house, so it depends on why you want your officer in there. I’m not going to cover all of them today, but let’s look at the power to search. Because we’re still looking for evidence from our earlier crime scene.

You probably don’t need to know the act and sections for your book, but I’ll put it in brackets just in case.

Okay, so here goes;

  • If you arrest an offender just outside any premises and you believe there may be property pertaining to the offence for which you have arrested said offender, inside that premise, you have the power to go inside that address – only at that immediate time, not at a later date, under this power – to search the premises. (Section 32 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984) There are subsection conditions to this, including things such as the person has to have access to it – it can’t be a random property that the person doesn’t have access to and you have to have reasonable grounds for believing property will be found there.
  • Section 32 also states you can search the property s/he was arrested inside of, not just outside of.
  • Section 32 also states you can search the person for any item that they may harm themselves or others with, be concealing as evidence, or that may assist them in their escape.
  • If after arrest, you need to enter the premises owned by your offender but they weren’t arrested by you at those premises or outside those premises then an officer of rank, no less than Inspector can authorise you to enter the premises to search for property, you believe to be in there. (Section 18 PACE)
  • A search warrant signed by a magistrate or judge. These can be obtained 24 hours a day, during sitting court hours or getting a judge out of dinner or bed. They don’t take long to obtain, especially once you know your way around the paperwork and you are polite to the people issuing the warrant and you are sure-footed and articulate in the grounds for the warrant. Judges know the law unequivocally and can issue these on their own. Magistrates need a law clerk with them. So out of hours, you will be attending the home of a Judge.

These are powers to search. There are some other more obscure powers, under things to do with scrap metal, for instance, but I’m not going to list everything, as I doubt many crime writers are going to need that one.

Next time I will cover powers to generally enter premises. So, if you’re looking to get that foot in the door and you don’t know if you can push your luck or not.


You can find all previous Policing entries Here. And if you have any questions you’d like me to cover, then leave me a comment or get in touch with me on the contact form above.

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