DEALING WITH THE POLICE
If Police Are Asking to Speak with You
We are oftentimes ill-prepared to speak with the police. They may seem cordial and unassuming, but this is largely a tactic used to determine whether they have reasonable grounds to arrest you in the moment, or in the hopes that you provide additional evidence in the future, 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. You do not have to give a statement or information to the police at any time during an investigation. If you are being detained, you have the right to counsel. If you are a suspect in a crime, speak to a lawyer before providing any information to the police.
There are exceptions to the right to silence. You may be compelled to provide information to the police if you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident. Similarly, you may be required to provide breath samples in an impaired driving investigation.
If Police Have Come to Search Your Home or Business
If the police come to your door, you are not obliged to answer their questions as you have the right to remain silent. You may respond as you would with any stranger: to determine the purpose of the visit by asking “how can I help you?” If the police ask to be invited inside to talk, do not let them in and specify that you are under no obligation to issue a statement. The police may also ask if you will consent to a search without a search warrant. Advise the police that you do not consent to a search of your premises. In rare circumstances, the police may search a residence without a warrant but you should not consent to a search of your property.
If you are asked to come to the police station for questioning, do not do so until you have exercised your right to counsel. You are not required to accompany the police unless you are placed under arrest.
If the police are responding to a 911 call, an emergency or exigent circumstances in a firearms case, they may not require consent to enter a residence in these situations.
Arrest, Detention and Investigation
When arrested or detained, you have the right, under the 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;
- To have the validity of the detention determined by way of the 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. If you do not have a lawyer, exercise your constitutional right to counsel and use the free Legal Aid that is provided.
During an investigation, the police are legally permitted to use deception to elicit information. The police can lie to you, but you cannot lie to them since you are the one under investigation. Any lying by the accused may be considered obstruction of justice. Lying may also damage the credibility you hold in court. Thus, it is in your best interest to exercise your right to silence.
An officer may offer to be “off the record,” or express that you have the opportunity to tell your side of the story. As in any interpretation, this leaves plenty of room open for misunderstanding, wherein your point of view may not be received properly. In more acute situations, these instances may be manipulation tactics designed by the police to conform evidence to their investigation. If you bear important information, save it for your counsel.
Your right to counsel and detention may be restricted during certain motor vehicle stops. For example, during a traffic stop, you have the obligation to identify yourself and provide vehicle registration and insurance. If the police have reasonable suspicion that you have consumed alcohol, they may administer a breathalyzer test. In this instance you do not have the right to counsel; however, you are under no obligation to admit to consuming alcohol.