Tips For Dealing With The Police
Many people charged with a criminal offence do not know what their rights are when interrogated by police. Below are some scenarios and how to best approach the situation. However, the three most important takeaways are:
- 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.
“Let’s say I’m out on Saturday night with a group of friends, outside a convenience store. A police officer approaches me and asks for 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.
“What if I ride my bike to work and am stopped by an officer who claims I committed a traffic offence? 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.
“Let’s say I am pulled over by an officer while driving. I have not been drinking or using drugs. I believe I have not committed an infraction, but I am asked to produce licence and registration. Can I refuse to show my licence and registration?”
You are required by law to produce these documents. If your documents are in the glove compartment or in a concealed area, tell the officer you are obtaining these papers before moving to produce them.
“What if I’m pulled over and the officer informs me that my taillight is out, then asks, ‘Have you been drinking tonight?’ Can I refuse to answer that question?”
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.
“Suppose that I am pulled over by police, and they claim they need to search my 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.
“If 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.
“What happens if I’m asked to come in for an interview with the police after witnessing an assault? 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.
“Under what circumstances can an officer physically search my person?”
- 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 that you have a weapon used in the commission of a crime