What to do When Stopped by the Police
Being stopped by the police, whether at home, in your car, or on the street can be a source of anxiety. The following guidelines will help you protect your rights and improve your chances of driving or walking away safely. You don’t have to be a legal expert to say and do the right thing.
1. Keep Your Private Items Out of View
Out of sight and out of mind. Always keep any private items that you don’t want others to see out of sight. Legally speaking, police do not need a search warrant to confiscate any illegal items that are in plain view.
2. Be Courteous & Non-Confrontational
If you are pulled over while driving, the first thing you should to do is turn your car off, turn the dome light on (if it’s nighttime), roll down the window, and keep your hands on the steering wheel. Do not immediately reach into your glove compartment for your license and registration. Officers want to be able to see your hands for their own safety. Wait until the officer asks to see your paperwork before retrieving your documents.
If you are at home or on the street, just stay relaxed and keep your hands by your side or in front of you. You don’t want to an officer to mistake your movements as threatening their safety.
Ask the officer why you are being stopped. If the response is to question you why you think the officer stopped you, simply respond that you don’t know. Do not apologize when you are stopped. That may be considered as admission that you are guilty of an offence and may be used against in court.
Show your identification if it’s requested.
Be respectful and non-confrontational.
Refer to the police as “Sir,” “Ma’am,” or “Officer.”
Remain calm and quiet while the officer is reviewing your documents.
If the officer writes you a ticket, accept it quietly and never complain. Don’t thank them either.
Listen to any instruction on paying the fine or contesting the ticket, and drive away slowly.
3. Just Say “No” to Warrantless Searches
Warning: If a police officer asks your permission to search, you are under no obligation to consent. The only reason you are being asked is because the officer doesn’t have enough evidence to search without your consent. If you consent to a search, you give up one of the most important constitutional rights you have which is your protection against unreasonable searches and seizures under Section 8 of the Charter Of Rights And Freedoms.
Do not expect a police officer to tell you about your right not to consent. Police officers are not legally required to inform you of your rights before asking you to consent to a search. In addition, police officers are trained to use their authority to get people to consent to a search, and most people are predisposed to comply with any request a police officer makes. For example, the average motorist stopped by a police officer who asks them, “Would you mind if l search your vehicle, please?” will probably consent to the officer’s search without realizing that they have every right to deny the officer’s request. You have the right to just say “NO”. If the officer still proceeds to search you and find illegal contraband, your lawyer can argue that the contraband was discovered through an illegal search and hence should be thrown out of court.
You should never hesitate to assert your constitutional rights. Just say “no!”
4. Determine if You Can Leave
You have the right to terminate an encounter with a police officer unless you are being detained in police custody or have been arrested. The general rule is that you don’t have to answer any questions that the police ask you. This rule comes from Section 10 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which protects you on arrest or detention.
If you unsure if you are allowed to leave, say to the officer, “I have to be on my way. Am I free to go?
If the officer says “Yes”, politely leave immediately. If the officer’s answer is ambiguous, or if you are asked another question, persist by asking “am I being detained, or can I go now?” Keep asked until you receive either an affirmative or negative response. If the officer says “No” then you are being detained, and you may be placed under arrest. If this is the case, reassert your rights the previous right to stay calm and do not consent to any searches. Be aware, though that the officer will likely search your person for weapons.
5. Do Not Answer Questions without Your Lawyer Present
There is no reason to worry that your failure to answer the officer’s questions will later be used against you. The truth is just the opposite: Anything you say can, and probably will, be used against you. In most cases, trying to talk your way out the situation, only makes things worse for you.
In just about any case imaginable, a person is best off not answering any questions about his involvement in anything illegal. Assert your rights under sections 8, 9 and 10 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by saying: “Officer, I have nothing to say until I speak with a lawyer.”
6. Do Not Physically Resist
If the police proceed to detain, search, or arrest you despite your actions; do not physically resist. If you feel the need to protest, state clearly but non-confrontationally “Officer, I am not resisting arrest and I do not consent to any searches.” Better yet, you can assert your rights by simply saying nothing until you can speak with a lawyer.
7. Do Not Engage in Conversation with the Police
Once you’ve been arrested, and especially after you’ve had an opportunity to speak to a lawyer, the police will often try to ask you questions. You will be advised of the circumstances surrounding the charge against you. You will then be told that “this is your opportunity to tell your side of the story” or “you will feel better owning up to what you have done” or “is that what happened?” The police will likely be persistent and determined to get a response from you. The advice here is simple, but very difficult to maintain. DO NOT ENGAGE. You may be questioned for few minutes or many hours. It is important that you maintain your vigilance and not get pulled into the conversation no matter what is said to you. DO NOT LIE TO THE POLICE under any circumstances. Being untruthful to the police is a criminal offence. If the police lie to you, that is considered an investigative technique. You cannot win against a well-trained police interrogator unless you simply refuse to engage in any conversation.
8. Be Prepared for a Bail Hearing
Once you’ve been charged with an offence and the police may decide to hold you for a bail hearing. Request to speak to a lawyer or someone you can go to court and post bail on your behalf. Depending on the offence for which you are charged, and your background, this may be a very complex or straightforward procedure. Either way a lawyer will be a valuable asset to ensure that your rights are protected and you are dealt with fairly.
The lawyers at Kalina & Tejpal can be reached at (416) 900-6999 or [email protected]