The UK Rules
Stop and Search Powers

Police Stop and Search Powers

What are police powers to stop and search? UK police officers have the legal authority to stop and question you at any time.

This page explains your rights on the police powers of search and questioning. Further information also clarifies the 'stop and account' procedure.

POLICE SEARCH POWERS UK: If the police stop and question you they can only carry out a search in certain situations.

There is no legal requirement for a police officer to be in uniform to stop and question you.

But the police must show you their official warrant card if they are not wearing a police uniform.

A PCSO is a police community support officer. But in fact they are not attested constables.

That means PCSOs do not have as much authority or powers of arrest. But they can use the 'any person' powers of arrest to stop and question you. If a PCSO stops and questions you they must be wearing their police uniform to continue with their questioning.

Police Powers to Stop and Question

UK police powers give officers the legal right to stop and question you at any time. It is an integral part of normal police work and their duties. While you are dealing with a police encounter the officer can ask:

Note: You do not have to answer any questions that a police officer asks you. Some rules of police search powers differ in Scotland.

Police Stop and Search Laws UK

A police officer can stop and search you providing they have 'reasonable grounds' to suspect you are carrying:

There are certain situations where you can get stopped and searched without reasonable grounds. But, the search must get approved by a senior police officer before it can take place. A senior police officer may grant the search if he suspects that:

Before You Get Searched by Police

Several things must happen before you get searched by a police officer. The police officer must inform you of:

Police Powers for Remove Clothes

Police stop and search powers allow an officer to ask that you take off (remove) your jacket, coat, or gloves.

The police can also ask that you take off other items of clothing. If they want you to remove more than a jacket and gloves the police officer must be the same sex gender as you are.

In some cases this can relate to clothes that you are wearing for religious reasons (e.g. a turban or a veil). The officer must take you somewhere out of public view in this situation.

Important InformationBeing searched by the police does not mean you are getting arrested.

Stop and Account Rights

There is no national requirement for officers to keep records on the lesser-known 'stop and accounting' procedure. But, the direction for police stop and account powers comes from guidance note 22A.

In fact, local forces can decide whether their officers need to record the self-defined ethnicity of persons stopped and asked to account for themselves. This applies most where there may be concerns for the local monitoring of disproportionality.

Note: You would have the right to request information on how to complain about the way you got treated. The officer must provide the details on how to make a complaint about police treatment.

What Exactly is a Stop and Account Procedure?

The police say that stop and account happens when an officer stops a member of the public. The office may ask you several questions including:

Note: The police officer does not have the authority to make you stay - even if you get stopped under police stop and account powers. But, a stop and search falls under much stricter legal conditions.

Police Stop and Search Powers in United Kingdom