Stop and Scan

Police can use fingerprint scanners in very limited circumstances.

They must:

  • Have reason to believe you’ve committed a crime – from armed robbery to not having the right immigration papers AND
  • be unable to establish what your name is, or have “reason to doubt” you’re telling the truth about who you are.

What you need to know:

If a police officer asks to scan your fingerprints on the street

Consider whether you should film the encounter. If you feel safe to do so, this could help ensure the police comply with their duties and act lawfully – or provide evidence if they don’t. Be careful not to obstruct the police as they carry out their duties, as this is an offence.

Before you decide whether to comply with the police’s request:

  • Ask why you’re being stopped.
  • Ask whether they believe you have committed a crime – and if so, what crime?
  • Ask what their reasonable belief for this is. If they believe it is because you have committed an immigration offence, press them for a full explanation of why they think this. The police are bound by the Equality Act 2010, and could be breaking the law if they have stopped you for discriminatory reasons. Ask what their reasonable grounds are for believing you’ve given a false name or address.


If they have no reasonable grounds, you have the legal right to refuse to let them scan your fingerprints. You can explain that section 61(6A) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 does not give them the power to force you to give your fingerprints, and doing so could amount to false imprisonment.