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Posted on February 21st 2006 in Legal Articles

What you need to know if you are stopped by the police

What you need to know if you are stopped by the police

While much of our legal knowledge comes courtesy of Hollywood, it is important to keep in mind that it is just television and it is usually based on American not Canadian law.

In this article we provide you with some basic information about your legal rights and what to do if you or someone you know is stopped by the police.

The police want to question you, do you have to answer?
Although the police are allowed to ask you questions, you are allowed not to answer.
• If you have been stopped on the street you are entitled to walk away.
• If they have come to you, you are permitted to ask the reason for the visit and to terminate the interview if you choose.
• If you are stopped while driving, the police can ask for and you must produce, your driver’s licence, vehicle registration and evidence of insurance.

What should you do if you have been stopped while driving and are asked to give a breath sample?
If you are stopped at a R.I.D.E. program, for instance, you may be asked to blow into a road side screening device. If you fail the roadside test you will be taken to the police station for a breathalyzer test. It is your right to consult with a lawyer, prior to the breathalyzer. If you refuse to provide a breath sample you will probably be charged.

If you have been arrested should you answer questions?
NO! Although you should always be polite, do not give any kind of verbal or written statement without first consulting a lawyer. Statements you make can be used against you at trial. Even if you feel you have done nothing wrong, your attempts at explanations may be misunderstood. Everyone has the right to remain silent – exercise it.

What are some of your legal rights if you are arrested or charged?
Every Canadian has certain rights guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the right:
• not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned;
• to be informed promptly of the reasons why they have been arrested or detained;
• to be informed of the specific offence they have been charged with;
• to consult and retain a lawyer; and
• to be secured against unreasonable search and seizure.

If you have been arrested or charged will you be taken to jail?
Depending on the offence, you may be charged without actually being arrested. In this case you will be free to go. Even if you are arrested, you may be immediately released:
• if the crime is not a serious one;
• if the police believe no further offences will occur;
• if there is no need to secure evidence; or
• if the police trust you will appear in court.

You may also be released if a justice of the peace or judge accepts your promise to appear for trial or if you post the bail that has been set.

What is a summary conviction offence?
While many Canadians are more familiar with felonies and misdemeanors, these are American terms. In Canada, a minor offence is referred to as a summary conviction offence. The maximum jail sentence is six months and the maximum fine is $2,000.

What is an indictable offence?
More serious offences are referred to as indictable offences. These crimes often involve violence with weapons or injury. The maximum sentence may range from two years to life imprisonment.

How can I get further information?
If you need more information, or if you require assistance with a criminal matter, you should contact Jerry Birenbaum.