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Stop and Search – Your Rights

(Photo credit – Wikipedia)

When we mention the police, everyone has an opinion: some positive, some not so much. Whether we love them or hate them, the police have a role to play in society. Their role is to enforce and uphold the law in local areas by protecting the public and their property, preventing crime, and reducing the fear of crime.

When we talk to young people about drugs, they are always keen to speak to us about police stop and search and their experiences. Some feel the police have mistreated them and would like to be better informed on their rights and what rights the police have during a stop and search in Scotland. So, let’s get into it.

What is a ‘stop and search.’

Police stop and search is when the police stop you when you’re out and about and search your pockets and bags, or the car you’re travelling in for illegal items like drugs, weapons or stolen goods.

Can the police search you just because you’re young?

If the police are searching you, they must have a specific reason. They cannot search you just because you are young and hanging about the streets.

So if the police need a specific reason to search you, what reasons justify a police stop and search?

There are a few reasons for this, but the officer must tell you that reason before searching you.

It could be:

· You meet the profile of someone they are looking for. The police could have had a call earlier that night reporting 0an incident, and the police report involves a description of the person involved, and you meet the description.

· You smell of cannabis. The police will often stop and chat to people in the street (Aye, it’s annoying if it’s happening all the time but they’re just doing their job). When stopping for a chat, they might notice a weed smell and search you based on that.

(photo credit -

· You appear to be under the influence of drugs. The police have a responsibility to keep people in the community safe. If the police have just driven past you and notice you are heavily intoxicated and ignore it. They might get a report, later on, you have been involved in an incident, they have failed to do their job. When under the influence, your judgement is impaired - this makes you more vulnerable. The police do not want you or anyone else to come to harm. So, they might stop you to see if everything is okay.

· Police intelligence. Police have access to information that the general public doesn’t have access to. They can use this information to stop and search you. They could have information from previous police reports that suggest you are drug dealing. It is their job to follow up on this information and check it out.

What can the police do during a search?

They can search you and your clothing, anything you are carrying (e.g. wallet and bag) or the car you are travelling in.

If the police stop you to conduct a search, they will detain you under legislation.

The legislation they detain you under will link to what they are searching for:

Drugs search - “We are detaining you under The Misuse of Drugs Act.”

Weapons search - “We are detaining you under the Criminal Law Consolidations Act Scotland.”

Stolen goods search – “We are detaining you under Section 60 of the Civic Government Scotland Act.”

This means you are under temporary arrest and should cooperate fully with the search. If you don’t, you could be arrested and charged for resisting arrest.

Your Rights

You have the right to:

  • Be told why you are being searched. (e.g. “You appear to be under the influence of drugs.”)

  • Be told the legislation under which you are being detained. (e.g. “You are being detained under The Misuse of Drugs Act.”)

  • To be searched by someone of the same sex.

  • To ask for a receipt of the search.

  • To only be asked to take off your jacket/open your jacket if searched on the street. If you were asked to remove any other clothing items, it would have to be done at the police station.

The Rights of the Police Officer

Police have the right to:

  • Stop and search you if they have a specific reason to carry out this search.

  • Search your clothing, anything you’re carrying and the car you are travelling in.

  • Charge you with obstruction or perverting the court of justice if you try to refuse the search or lie about personal details.

  • Use a common-sense approach – this is why it’s important to cooperate. If you make their life difficult, they will likely make your life difficult.

  • Provide you with a receipt of the search (if you ask for it).

For more information on, click the link below:

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