What should I say to the police when they stop me?

The police should only stop you if they are investigating a crime or if you are driving so they may check your license and registration, but some police officers will stop you just because they think you look suspicious.   If this happens, you should stay calm, be polite and know your rights.

Police officers may legally stop you if they are investigating a crime.  As a good citizen, you will probably want to help the police with their investigation by giving them information.  Nevertheless, you should remember that the police may consider you a potential suspect and will try to get information to use against you.  There are always risks involved when cooperating with the police.

In most cases, you are not required to talk to the police and you are choosing to cooperate with them if you answer their questions.  Even though you may not have to, it is usually a good idea to cooperate to the extent of giving the police your correct legal name and address.  If you give the police a false name, you may be charged with a criminal offence for doing so.

You do have to give the police your name and address if they think you have committed a crime like jaywalking or riding your bike on the sidewalk.  Also, the police are allowed to stop you while you are driving and you are required to provide them with your driver’s license and registration.

If the police stop you and try to keep you for a lengthy period, you should ask if you are under arrest. Make sure you remember how the officer responds and it is a good idea to make notes of what happened soon after if you think the police have mistreated you or breached your rights.   The police officer will certainly make notes and you should record your interpretation of what happened.

If you are not under arrest, ask the officer if you can go.  If the officer says that you are free to go, leave right away.   If the officer says you are not free to go, you may want to ask why but be careful to avoid giving the police any information about yourself which may be used against you later.

If you are under arrest, do not say anything to the police until you speak to a lawyer.  This is very important because anything you say to the police can be used against you in the future, but anything you tell your lawyer as part of legitimately getting legal advice is privileged and cannot be used against you.  In this way, you can have your lawyer speak for you to tell your side of things to the Crown Prosecutor.  The conversations between your lawyer and the Crown Prosecutor are also privileged and cannot be used against you.

Please note that the above is not intended to substitute for legal advice for specific cases and you should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible if the police do arrest you or detain you for a lengthy period.