Legal Rights and Responsibilities: Search

Searching Persons

  • To search you, police must have reasonable suspicion that you are about to commit, is committing or have committed an offense. They should tell you why they want to search you. You have a right to ask the police officer politely, the reason why he/she wants to search you, if it is you were not told from the outset.
  • Police officers should not search you based on how you look or where you come from.
  • A woman should be searched by a woman only, and if no female police officer is available, the search must be made by any woman designated for the purpose by a police officer. Men are usually searched by both male and female officers.

House Search

  • Generally, the police should have a warrant before they search your house. They should show it to you when they come to search your house. Ask to see the warrant!
  • If they do not have a warrant, ask respectfully what their reasonable grounds are for wanting to enter your house as there are cases where the police can search without a warrant. For example, when it is believed that a crime has been or about to be committed or if the police are in pursuit of a suspect and that person runs into your house. This is called reasonable grounds or suspicion.
  • Ask the officer his name but if he fails to identify himself, note anything that can help you to identify the officer for example, his badge number, markings on the car he drove, etc.
  • Look carefully at the officer so that you may be able to identify him, if necessary you can relay the description at a later date.
  • A warrant will normally be executed by day unless otherwise stated and where good reasons were given why it must be done at night.
  • A warrant should be executed only within the strict specifications mentioned within the warrant.
  • Follow the officers during the search!
  • If the police want to take items from your home, they should make a note of the items being taken and leave a signed copy with you.

Request a signed list of anything that the officer takes with him/her. The right to protection from torture, or inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment

Vehicular Search

  • If the police wishes to search your vehicle they should tell you the reasonable grounds for wanting to search. They do not have a right to search as a matter of routine.
  • You have a right to ask the police officer courteously, the reason for wanting to search your vehicle if they do not tell you

For more information on road/traffic issues please see The Road Traffic Act and its subsidiary legislation.

Please note that the 2011 amendments to Chapter Three of the Constitution (Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms) do not make any provisions for searches to be conducted for the prevention or detection of a crime or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedoms of others as the previous version of Chapter Three had done. This makes the grounds on which search can be conducted a contestable matter.

The Constitution of Jamaica is the overarching law of the land.