With the number of news stories about police abusing their authority seemingly increasing every year, I though it might be a good idea to do a little research to discover what your rights are when you are stopped by the cops. Most of the information I’m posting here is from settlement.org‘s FAQ on The Police and You:
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects your rights if the police stop you and want to question you or if they arrest you.
- The police cannot stop you, search you, or arrest you without a good reason.
- The police must say who they are and show identification.
- Police cannot enter your home unless they have your permission, a warrant to arrest someone or do a search, or unless they are responding to an emergency. You have to go to the police station only if you are under arrest.
- The police must tell you that you are being arrested and why; and they must be sure you understand them. You have the right to an interpreter when you are dealing with the law.
- If you are arrested, the police must tell you at once that you have the right to a lawyer. You have the right to choose your lawyer, and to call and talk to your lawyer in private. If you can’t afford a lawyer, the police will give you the toll-free 24-hour number for Legal Aid (a service provided by the government).
- The police must bring you to a justice of the peace or a bail hearing to set the terms for your release as soon as possible after your arrest, usually within 24 hours.
- The police may touch you, but not harm you or use unnecessary force.
- If you are under 18 years of age, you have other rights under the Youth Offenders Act. A younger person who is accused or convicted is not treated the same way as an adult.
- If you are stopped while driving, you must show your driver’s licence, car registration and insurance certificate. If you don’t, you may be charged under the Highway Traffic Act.
- If they believe you have been drinking alcohol before or during driving, the police can insist you take a roadside breath test. If they ask you to take this test, you don’t have the right to call your lawyer first.
- If the police have reason to believe you can’t drive correctly because you drank alcohol or took drugs, they can ask for a blood or urine test. If they ask for another test, you do have the right to speak to a lawyer. If you refuse to take the tests, the police will charge you.
If the police suspect you have committed a crime, you should tell them your name, address, and date of birth. If these prove that the police have the wrong person, then you won’t be arrested. If the police think you have committed only a minor crime, and you have identified yourself, they may not arrest you. Instead, they will give you a paper telling you when to go to court. If you don’t identify yourself, the police can hold you until they find out who you are.
You do not have to answer any other questions; Just ask to speak to a lawyer and the police must stop asking questions. Do not resist the police. Usually, things go better if you are polite with the police. You are presumed innocent until proven guilty in court.
If you decide to talk to the police, anything you say can be used as evidence in court.
So, it looks like your best bet is to not tell the cops anything beyond your identification and ask to see a lawyer first. I’ve heard that the police can also lie to your about your legal rights, and basically try to trick you into confessing a crime. I don’t know if that’s just in the US or if it applies to Canada, too.
I guess the best thing to keep in mind when dealing with the police in situations like this is that the police are not your friends. They are out looking for criminals and will bust you if they think you are one.