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Protecting your recording

Know your rights - Protecting your recording


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Protecting your recording


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Protecting your recording
Protecting your recording

Can the police take my phone or other recording device?


The police cannot take your phone just because they do not like you recording. There must be a lawful reason for them to take your phone.


There are only limited circumstances where they can take your phone, but the laws are a little bit different in different places. Generally, the police can only take your property in the following circumstances:

The police have a warrant


Police usually need a warrant to search you, your possessions or your property. If the warrant includes your phone, the police will be able to seize it and examine its contents.

The police arrest you

If you are arrested, the police can usually search you once you are in lawful custody, and then seize anything in your possession. This alone does not give the police power to search the contents of your phone, they only have the power to hold onto your possessions while you are in custody.

If you believe you are about to be arrested and you have the chance, this is a good time to use the ‘Notify emergency contacts’ tool in the Copwatch app.

The police believe you have committed an offence

There are some limited circumstances where police may search without a warrant and seize your property, including your phone. These rules are different across Australia, but generally they apply only if you have committed an offence, and the search relates to that offence.


So, for example, if the police believe you have committed a graffiti offence, they can search you for spray paint, and if they find spray paint they can take that spray paint because it is related to the offence. They should not take your phone, unless it is related to the offence.


This power may also apply if the police believe you have something that is stolen. If the police believe that your mobile phone is stolen, they may be able to seize it.

The police believe you have made an illegal recording


There are not many circumstances where it is unlawful to make a recording, so this really should not happen. Everywhere in Australia, the law says you can record in public, even if the police tell you to stop.

You just need to make sure you are aware of the rules around recording private conversations or activities (see the section ‘Can I record the police on private property?’) and also how the law protects people from things like stalking (see the section ‘What if someone records me without consent, or shares a recording of me?’).


The police want to preserve evidence

If the police believe that your property is, or contains, evidence of an offence, they may be able to seize it to make sure evidence is not destroyed or lost. This may include evidence stored on your recording device.


The rules are slightly different depending on where you are. In some places, this power only applies if the alleged offence is a serious (indictable) one.


These rules are really designed to make sure that the police can seize items to prove an offence. They are not designed for police to take your phone because there is evidence against the police. However, if you have recorded someone else committing an offence, the police may have the power to keep this evidence.


You may even commit an offence yourself if you delete evidence. See the section ‘Can my recording be used as evidence?’  for more information about this.

Can the police search my phone?


Police usually need a warrant to search you, your possessions or your property. This includes searching your phone.

Can the police make me unlock my phone?


If the police have a warrant to search your phone, you would usually need to provide them with access to the electronically stored information (that is, the contents of your phone). This means you may have to unlock the phone for them.


The police cannot physically force you to unlock your phone, for example, by physically pressing your finger against the fingerprint recognition button. If you refuse to unlock the phone, the police should seize the phone and follow up with the court that issued the warrant. This protects your rights to make a case that, for example, the phone was not actually covered by the warrant in the first place.

Always speak to a lawyer before you unlock your phone for the police.

Can the police delete my recording?


No. Definitely not. Not under any circumstances.

How can I make sure my recording is stored safe in the cloud?


We have designed the Copwatch app to help you do this. The Copwatch app helps you set up your phone to make sure recordings are copied to the cloud to keep them safe and secure. The Copwatch app also lets you quickly send location details to your emergency contacts if you are involved in an incident.


The app is free and keeps you in control of your information and recordings.


Get the Copwatch app here.


Please note that some features require a connection to wifi or a mobile service.

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Unlock phone
Search phone
Delete Recording
Cloud Storage
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