Your rights when being searched by the Gardaí
Know your rights when being searched, and what to do when it happens
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
A member of An Garda Síochána has the power to search you if they have reasonable suspicion that you’ve broken the law. If this ever happens, be sure to be polite. You’re only making matters worse if you’re rude, panic or lose your temper.
What you need to know:
Generally speaking, Gardaí need to have obtained a court-ordered search warrant to search your property, except if its under the auspices of certain acts which are detailed here.
- You can be searched in your home, at work, on the street or in your car
- A warrant is also required to seize and search your phone, computer or mobile tablet
- If a Garda has reasonable grounds to believe you’ve committed a crime, they can request to search your person without your consent – this can happen to people aged over or under 18 years
- Ask why they want to search you or your property and under what legal act
- If you’re worried that a search has been carried out illegally, you should get legal advice ASAP
- Ask to see the identification (or identity number) of the person searching or arresting you – you have a legal right to know this and it can help prevent harassment
- If you feel you’ve been subject to unwarranted attention or harrasment, consult the Crime Victims Helpline article on harrassment
- If a search is more than just a ‘pat down’ over your clothes then it must be carried out by someone of the same sex as you (so if you’re a girl then a female officer must search you)
If your property is searched, then they can take away anything that can be used as legal evidence against you.
- Make a list of any items that the Gardaí or police take away with them
- Note the way that the search was carried out (in a respectful way, damaging your property, intimidating, etc)
- If the search was carried out illegally (ie without a warrant), any evidence collected is inadmissible in court
- Ask for a record of the search – this means that if you feel there was no good reason for the search or it wasn’t carried our properly, at least you have proof that the search happened
If you are not happy with the way you were treated:
Contact the Garda Ombudsman. This is an organisation that deals with complaints made by members of the public concerning the actions and behaviour of members of An Garda Síochána. The Ombudsman aims to provide the public with an independent supervision of the Gardaí, and to deal with the public’s complaints concerning Gardaí in an efficient and timely manner.
Need more information, advice or guidance?
We offer information, advice and guidance about the issues that matter to you. Our online Youth Information Chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm (excluding Bank Holidays).