The legislative powers of the police to stop individuals

There are several different police powers that can be used, together or separately, as grounds for a stop. Each of these powers has its own provision and, depending on the fulfillment of the requirements, these can be connected to other actions. The first police power in this area is called identity check, prescribed in Articles 30 to 32 of the Police Affairs and Powers Act (PAPA). It can consist of by the inspection of a photo identity document or similar. Legal conditions for identity checks are enumerated in 11 situations (Article 30, paragraph 1 PAPA). Most of them are obligatory (e.g. on the detention of a person at a crime scene). Discretionary grounds are listed in two cases: a person caught in flagranti, and when there are security reasons for the check. These situations depend on the assessment of the circumstances by a particular police officer. The police officer is obliged to inform the person about the reason for the identity check. If a person’s identity can not be checked, the following police power is to establish identity. The person is taken to a police station and forensic actions are undertaken (Article 33). This action also represents the basis for limiting freedom of movement. The second power relates to privacy (investigation of clothing or other objects). The power is officially called an inspection or a frisk. It is carried out by touching (patting down) the outer surfaces of clothing. The legal requirements are the protection of general security, or seeking evidence of a criminal offense. If an officer establishes a suspicious object by touching, s/he can ask for an explanation or that it be taken out. A police officer may not open the inner parts of the clothing (pockets, sleeves etc.) nor open a bag. If there is an object that suggests a criminal offense has been perpetrated, then the conditions for the next action, called the search of a person, are fulfilled. This power causes the most discussion in practice, in case-law and in academia. The problem is in defining which items of clothing a police officer can frisk. The highest courts have changed their judgements on borderline cases. The Criminal Procedure Act stipulates that, if a police officer has exceeded the limits of their powers, the evidence collected cannot be used. Other powers in this area do not attract such attention, there being no legal guidelines for interpretation. The third power is called a search and is not prescribed in the police legislation but in Criminal Procedure legislation. A search means an a search of all clothes and bags. The legal aim is to find evidence that a person might destroy or weapons. The fourth power is to collect information from citizens (Article 36 PAPA). The police can stop the person there is reason to believe has important information regarding police affairs. If other evidence indicates that a person is a suspect, then they may be questioned after being given a caution about their rights. The first interrogation must be video recorded, according to the legal provisions. Above mentioned police powers can be taken in combination or separately. It depends on the circumstances of the case.

The obligation to register stops

After performing any of these powers, the police officer should write a report. In Article 52 of the Code on Performing Police Powers, it is stipulated that a written report must be written after the use of a police power. The collected reports are retained in special database. However, there are concerns about the accuracy and completeness of these records. In some cases, where someone’s alibi was challenged, it was discovered that some stops of people had not been recorded, and vice versa.

Legislation procedures which protect citizens from police offences

Anyone who considers that a violation of police law has occurred may file a report to the unit from which the police officer is based. After that, they may file a complaint under Article 5 of the Law on Police.


Blog Understanding the Practice of Police Stops in Europe – Police stops in Croatia