Police powers to stop and search: your rights

Last updated: 1 August 2017

The police have the power to stop and search you and the vehicle you're travelling in.

If the police stop and search you, they must follow the rules set out in the Stop and Search Code of Practice.

The Code of Practice says the the police must have 'reasonable grounds' to stop and search you. This means reasonable suspicion that you have committed, are committing, or are about to commit a crime. Or that you're carrying an illegal item.

What happens if you're stopped and searched

For information on what happens if you're stopped and searched by the police, download:

You can also find information about stop and search on the Police Scotland website.

Help and advice

You can get support if you:

  • have questions about stop and search
  • think you or someone you know has been searched in a way that breaches your human rights

Citizens Advice

Phone: 0808 800 9060
Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm
Saturday 10am to 2pm
Their stop and search page includes information on discrimination, removing clothing, vulnerable adults, transgender people and disabled people. Advisers can give information on organisations that can help if you think police have breached your human rights. They can also help you make a complaint and submit a complaint on your behalf, if you want them to. Find a bureau near you.

Equality Advisory Support Helpline

Phone: 0808 800 0082
Textphone: 0808 800 0082
Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm
Saturday 10am to 2pm
Email: use the contact form on their site
Offers help and advice on issues relating to equality and human rights.

Ethnic Minorities Law Centre

Phone (Glasgow): 0141 204 2888
Phone (Edinburgh): 0131 229 2038
Email: via the contact form on their website.
Provides legal advice, help and representation for people from minority ethnic communities.

These not-for-profit firms provide legal advice for people who would find it hard to get it elsewhere.

Police complaints

You can complain about the police if you're unhappy with how they treated you.