How to Deal with the Police in Edmonton from an Expert Criminal Lawyer
If Police Are Asking to Speak with You
You may be concerned if the police are asking to speak with you. They may seem friendly and say they simply want to meet with you. What you might not know is that they may have already determined that they have reasonable and probable grounds to arrest you or are hoping you make an admissible statement that gives the police grounds to arrest you or provides additional evidence for their case, even if you are innocent. They may also plan to lay charges and figure that some piece of information will come out from an interview that will provide grounds to place you under arrest or further their investigation, even if you are innocent. Consult a criminal lawyer to know your rights before providing information to the police.
You have the right to remain silent at any time. Other than certain situations where you might have to identify yourself, you have the right to remain silent whether you are detained or not. Do not provide any information or evidence to the police before you have obtained legal advice. If you are being detained, you have the right to counsel. You do not have to give a statement or information to the police at any time during an investigation.
If Police Have Come to Search Your Home or Business
If the police come to your door, you are not obliged to answer as you have the right to remain silent. You can respond as you would with any stranger to determine the purpose of the visit by asking “how can I help you?” If the officer is responding to noise or some other complaint (e.g., forgot to pay for something), then apologize and respond appropriately. If the police ask if they can come in to talk, then do not let the officer in and indicate that you are not giving a statement. The police may also ask if you will consent to a search without a search warrant. Advise the police that you are not consenting to the search of your premises and they must obtain a warrant.
If you are asked to come to the police station for questioning, do not do so until you have exercised your right to counsel. Do not consent or agree to attend the police station to provide a statement. You are not required to accompany the police unless you are placed under arrest. If the police are responding to a 911 call or an emergency, they may have grounds to enter your residence to ensure the safety of an individual. These circumstances are rare and the police do not require consent to enter a residence in these situations.
Arrest, Detention and Investigation
When arrested or detained, you have the right under s.10 of the Constitution Act, 1982, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to:
- be informed promptly of the reasons therefor;
- to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right; and
- to have the validity of the detention determined by way of right to petition; and
- to be released if the detention is not lawful.
Free legal advice is available from duty counsel prior to any discussions with police. It is imperative that you exercise your right to counsel before saying anything to police. If you do not have a lawyer, exercise your right to counsel and use the free Legal Aid that is provided and is a constitutional right.
During an investigation, the police are legally permitted to use a level of deception to illicit information or a confession. The police can lie to you but you cannot lie as it is you, and not the police, that are under investigation. Any lying by you is a criminal offence, you could be charged with obstructing a peace officer or “obstructing justice.” Lying can also hurt your credibility in court so do not lie under any circumstances. You should exercise your right to silence and not provide a statement to the police.
An officer may offer to be “off the record,” but there is no such thing; the officer can make notes in his or her notebook at any time to be used against you. The police may tell you that this is your opportunity to tell your side of the story so they can decide how they are going to handle things and determine whether or not to lay charges. In most cases, the police are really looking to see if there is any admissible evidence to used against you in a criminal prosecution. You should not provide any information until you have obtained legal advice.
The police may say, “if you do not speak with me, I will have to assume everything someone else told me is true, and that’s how I will write my report.” The police might then use whatever information you provide against you. You may testify at a trial. You have a right to silence and exercising that right cannot be used against you in a criminal prosecution.
No counsel will advise you to speak openly and candidly to police while detained. If you decide to speak to police because you are innocent, do not expect the police to see your side; they may try to manipulate your story to conform with their evidence and investigation. You might tell police what seems a reasonable explanation for why something happened, but police might interpret information provided as admission of a crime, including helping or encouraging someone else commit a crime.
It may not matter to police whether you actually did what is being alleged or not rather but whether they can establish probable grounds to lay charges. If there is another side to the story, save it for your counsel. Police are only interested in information that they deem important.
Your right to counsel and detention may be modified and restricted during certain motor vehicle stops. For example, during a traffic stop, you have the obligation to identify yourself and to provide vehicle registration and insurance. If the police have a reasonable suspicion that you have consumed alcohol, they may require you to provide a sample of your breath at the roadside. You do not have the right to counsel during this detention. However, you are under no obligation to admit that you consumed alcohol & you are under no obligation to provide any information to the police.
Deciding Whether to Lay a Charge
The police have discretion to lay a charge based on reasonable grounds if they believe a crime has been committed. The police must consider all evidence against you, including witness statements, burden of proof and other variables. Police officers may subjectively think that they have reasonable and probable grounds to lay a charge and then leave the decision to prosecute the criminal case.
Deciding Whether to Grant Bail
Bail refers to being released prior to being tried in court after a criminal charge by either the courts or a peace officer (e.g., police). The police have had powers to decide bail (in addition to the courts) since the Bail Reform Act was established in the early 1970s. Police have several options to release you on bail without having to attend court for a bail hearing:
- Appear Notice or Promise to Appear;
- Recognizance; or
- The police officer in charge can stipulate certain conditions for bail, including the requirement to:
- remain within a territorial jurisdiction;
- provide a notice of a change of address, employment or occupation;
- abstain from consuming alcohol or drugs except for drugs which are medically prescribed;
- refrain from attending certain locations; and
- refrain from communicating directly or indirectly with certain individuals.
It is critical to comply with the bail conditions as failing to comply with them is considered a criminal offence.
The police cannot arbitrarily decide to detain you and deny bail without just cause. The right not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause was enshrined in the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Subject to some exceptions, the onus is on the Crown to justify the accused’s detention. There are some reverse onus provisions in the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
There are three grounds – primary, secondary and tertiary – for detention without bail. Detention can be deemed necessary on:
- primary grounds to ensure your attendance in court (in accordance with any criminal history and the nature of the offence, including whether or not the accused has a history of failing to appear, breach of recognizance);
- secondary grounds if there is a substantial likelihood you will commit a further offence; or
- tertiary grounds to maintain confidence in the administration of justice depending on:
- the strength of the prosecutor’s case;
- seriousness of the offence;
- circumstances of the offence (e.g., if a firearm was used); and
- the if the accused is liable to a lengthy term of imprisonment.
If you need an Edmonton criminal lawyer to defend your case or would like further facts on your rights when dealing with the police, speak with Rod Gregory today to discover how he can help you. Rod has defended many clients in Edmonton, Grand Prairie, and Western Canada. He will provide information on how to deal with the police related to your circumstance while representing you in court.