The police can stop you under three general circumstances. First, the police can stop you if they suspect that you have committed an offence. Second, the police can stop you if they actually see you committing an offence. And third, the police can stop you at any time while you are driving to determine whether you have consumed alcohol or drugs, whether you are insured, and whether the car is mechanically fit to be driven. In all cases, once the police stop you, you have the right to know why, and the right to speak to a lawyer within a reasonable period of time.
Although under the law you have the right to remain silent when questioned by police, it is best to cooperate with the police, and identify yourself. In some circumstances, you could be charged with the offence of obstructing the police if you fail to tell them your name. You could also be charged with an offence if you give the police a false name.
If the police continue to ask you questions and they do not allow you to leave, then in law it means that they are detaining you. When you are detained, you have the right to know why they are detaining or arresting you, and you have the right to talk to a lawyer.
Regardless of whether you have or have not been arrested, anything you tell the police can be used as evidence against you. This also applies to any physical tests that you are asked to perform or any samples that you are asked to voluntarily provide. Even though you may think that what you are telling the police could not hurt you in court, what you say or write could later become evidence against you. To be safe, you should consider talking to a lawyer before making any statements to any police officer, or before performing any test or providing any sample.
The police can generally search you, your clothing, and anything you are carrying in five circumstances. These are: one, when you agree to let the police search you; two, when the police have some reason to believe that you have committed, or are in the middle of committing an offence involving weapons; three, when you are in a place where the police are searching for drugs and they believe that you have drugs; four, when you are in a car where there is alcohol; and five, when you are arrested. In all these situations, you have the right to consult a lawyer, and you do not have to respond to any police questions.
If the police find something related to a different offence while they are legally searching you, they can charge you with that offence as well. For example, if the police search you because they believe you have a gun, and while searching you they find illegal drugs, they can charge you with a drug offence as well.
Although the police cannot conduct random searches, it is best not to become hostile or resist a police search. Resisting a search may result in a charge being laid against you. Instead, contact a lawyer as soon as possible and seek further information and advice.
Walter Drescher is a partner of the law firm of Cobb & Jones. If you have any questions, send them to the Simcoe Reformer, or consult a lawyer of your choice.