Backpacking in Australia: What to do if you get into Legal Trouble?

Simon Wells
Authored by Simon Wells
Posted Thursday, July 7, 2022 - 6:34am

When police arrest you in a foreign country, it is twice as terrifying as it is when it happens at home. Here’s what to do if you get into trouble when backpacking in Australia.

Every year, 370,000 backpackers make the journey around Australia, passing through Sydney and traveling far into the brush. Australia is a gorgeous country, full of potential, gold, and opals. As well as fantastic scenery and stunning coastline, it is known for friendly locals who always help each other out. They’re even willing to pass that wondrous spirit on to outsiders.

However, when you find yourself on the wrong side of the law in Australia, those locals can turn understandably sceptical, fairly fast. If you find yourself in handcuffs, what do you do? How do you represent your interests in a foreign jail? Here’s all you need to know about getting into legal trouble in Australia as a backpacker.

What Happens if You Get Arrested?

When you commit a crime, or if the police suspect you of committing a crime, the police will put a warrant out for your arrest. When they eventually find you (and they will), they will bring you into the station for processing. They can only arrest you if they have a warrant, catch you red handed, or suspect you are a danger to another person. 

You must go with the police when they ask. Otherwise, this constitutes resisting arrest. They can then use force. You may ask why you are under arrest, but do not try to stop them. 

After you get Arrested

Once they have arrested you, the police officer will bring you to a holding cell. It may be in a police station; it could be elsewhere. Stay there until they come to take your statement and do not try to leave.

The police may take your fingerprints or photograph you. They might charge you. Do not try to leave unless they say you are free to go. 

Your Right to Representation

Whether the police let you call your loved ones or not, they should not stop you from calling a lawyer. You do not have to say anything until you have spoken with your lawyer. Use this Wollongong lawyers office if you don’t have one on standby.

If the police tell you they are charging you with the offence, they will hold you beyond the interview. They will allow two phone calls, one for legal representation and the other to your loved ones. The police have a right to wave those phone calls if they arrest you for certain crimes. For example, if they pick you up for drug dealing, they cannot risk you phoning your colleagues and telling them about it in case they destroy evidence.

How Long Will I Be in Custody?

The police can only hold you for a ‘reasonable’ time. Beyond this, they must either charge you or release you. They will attempt to keep you until they have gathered enough evidence to press charges. This could take days. Alternatively, they may talk to you and discharge you. Either way, get a lawyer. 


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