Being held in police custody

After your arrest, the police may:

  • release you without charge
  • charge you and issue you with a notice to appear in the Magistrates Court
  • charge you and release you on bail
  • hold you at the watch-house until you go to court (usually the next day).

This page outlines what happens when you are held in custody at the watch-house, whether or not you are charged.

Police powers at the watch-house

Once you are in custody, police can:

  • search you and your belongings
  • take property from you
  • take ‘identifying particulars’ including palm prints, fingerprints, handwriting samples, voiceprints, footprints, photos of tattoos and scars, body measurements and DNA samples
  • let you go:
    • without charging you
    • after charging you and giving you a court date —after you sign a bail agreeing to go to court on a future date
    • requiring a surety (e.g. amount of money, a passport, pending the situation and or charge, each matter is different)
    • after giving you a notice to appear in court on a future date
  • keep you in custody until you go to court (where you can then apply for bail).

How long you can be held in custody

Without charge

If you are detained for questioning about a serious offence (e.g. murder, rape, robbery, assault, and break and enter) without any charge, the police can hold you for up to 8 hours, but can only question you for up to 4 hours however police can apply to a magistrate to extend the period to 12 hours.

The police must release you if they don’t have enough evidence to charge you.

With charge

If you are charged, the police may release you on bail from the watch-house. Otherwise, they must take you to court as soon as possible and release you if the court grants bail.

If the court refuses bail, you will be held in police custody until one of the following occurs:

  • you are granted bail
  • the charge against you is dropped
  • you are found not guilty
  • you are sentenced to a penalty other than imprisonment.

If you are held in custody, the police will usually transfer you to the a remand centre within 2 weeks.

Queensland remand centres are:

Read more about applying for bail

Read more about being charged with an offence

Receiving visitors and change of clothes

Generally, you will not be allowed visitors other than a lawyer at the watch-house, though someone may drop off clothes for you, if agreed by the Watch-house Keeper. Once you are in the remand centre, you may have visitors during visiting hours.

DNA samples

If you are charged with certain offences, you may need to provide a DNA sample. Police can obtain DNA samples with your consent, by court order or with permission of a senior police officer.

A DNA sample may be taken by an authorised police officer, a doctor or a nurse by making you use a mouth swab or by collecting hair from you.

Generally, your DNA sample and results are destroyed if your arrest doesn’t continue or a court finds you not guilty, if they are taken as an evidence sample.

Your DNA sample will not be destroyed if you're investigated or charged with another serious offence, or you're unfit for trial due to mental illness.

If you're asked to give a DNA sample and you don't want to, obtain legal advice.

Note: A DNA Sample can be taken using force.

Identification parades

You can be asked to take part in an identification parade. Police must explain the procedure to you before carrying out the parade.

Do not participate until you have obtained independent legal advice. The parade cannot take place unless you agree to participate.

Your lawyer, or a friend or relative, can be at the parade if they can get there in a reasonable time.