Your Guide to Your Rights When Dealing with Police

Scenario: Mark is out on Saturday night with a group of friends, outside a convenience store, a police officer approaches and asks for identification.

I am on foot or I was asked to produce identification, do I need to comply?

In most cases, you are not required to provide this information. However, if you lie about your name or address you may be charged with obstructing justice. You may ask if you are free to go, and if they say no, politely ask them to explain why.

Scenario: Tracy rides her bike to work and she is stopped by an officer who claims she committed a traffic offence.

I am on bicycle and I am stopped by police, do I need to provide identification and answer their questions?

You are required to provide your identification name and address to the police. They can arrest you if you refuse.

Scenario: George is pulled over by an officer while driving. He has not been drinking or using drugs. He believes he has not committed an infraction and he is asked to produce license and registration.

Can I refuse to show license and registration?

You are required by law to produce these documents. If your documents are in the glove compartment, or in an concealed area, tell the officer you are obtaining these papers before moving to produce them.

Scenario: Martin was pulled over and the officer informs him that his taillight is out, the officer also asks him "Have you been drinking tonight, Sir?"

Can I refuse to answer the question "have you been drinking?"

Yes, but do so politely by asking the officer why they stopped you and if you are free to go.

Can I refuse a breathalyzer or roadside sobriety test?

No, by law you must provide a breath sample and comply with roadside sobriety tests. You can be charged if you refuse.

Scenario: Edward has been pulled over by police and they claim they need to search his car because it matches the description of one used in the commission of a crime nearby.

Under what circumstances can the police search my car?

  • Police have no legal right to search your car in detail on a routine traffic stop.
  • Police may look in the windows of your car, and may use a flashlight to do this if it is nighttime.
  • The police may search your car if they have reasonable grounds to believe that there are illegal drugs or alcohol.
  • The police may search your car if they have reasonable grounds to believe there is evidence relating to the commission of a crime in the car.
  • They must also have a reasonable belief that the evidence, drugs or alcohol would be removed or destroyed during the time it would take to obtain a search warrant.

Scenario: Olivia has been in a traffic accident and she refuses to discuss the situation with the police.

I've been involved in a car accident, do I need to talk to police?

Yes, you must provide a statement or you could be charged.

Scenario: Alana has been asked to come in for an interview with the police, she witnessed an assault during a night out with friends.

I was detained or asked to come in for an interview with police, do I need a lawyer?

Always ask for a lawyer if you are detained. It is best to consult a lawyer before attending any interview with the police, even as a witness.

Scenario: Malik has been stopped by police and during their conversation they demand to search his person.

Under what circumstances can an officer physically search my person?

  • If you are placed under arrest.
  • You consent to the search.
  • You are in a vehicle where people are illegally consuming or transporting alcohol.
  • The police have a reasonable belief you have a weapon used in the commission of a crime.

IMPORTANT TAKEAWAYS:

If you are detained, you do not need to answer any questions without a lawyer.

If you are arrested, you are entitled to know the reason for your arrest immediately.

Contact a lawyer right away if detained or arrested.