Police, like anyone, can go up and talk to people they encounter in public. Usually, people are free to stop or go as they please. However, in certain situations, police may stop someone and that person is not free to go. This can happen when:
- The police are arresting that person for a crime
- The police are investigating that person for a crime
- That person is driving a car
Under section 9 of the Charter, everyone has the right not to be detained without a good reason. The police can detain someone if they are investigating a crime and they have objective and reasonable grounds to suspect that person is connected to the crime. This is called investigation detention.
You have rights if you are being detained, including the right to remain silent, the right know why you are being detained, and the right to speak to a lawyer. Police have a heightened duty to inform youth of their rights without delay and in a language they can understand.
If you are not sure whether you are being detained, ask the police “am I free to go?” If they answer “yes”, you can leave. If the answer is “no” you are being detained and must stay. The police should tell you why but you may also ask questions if you do not understand what is happening.
Try to remember the reason the police give for detaining you. Ask for the officer’s name and badge number (they usually have business cards to give out). Remember it is always a good idea to be polite to the police.
For some activities, such as driving, the police have more power to stop people. For example, the police can stop a driver to check the driver’s license and insurance, to check if the driver is using their cell phone, to check if all passengers are wearing seatbelts, etc.
Answering Police Questions
You have the right to remain silent! What you say can be used against you! There are a few exceptions (see “Identifying Yourself” below), but in general it is usually best to say nothing until you have spoken to a lawyer if you are being arrested or detained by police, or if you simply do not feel comfortable. Sometimes police are seeking help from the public or making polite conversation and you can decide whether to talk to them in those circumstances.
NOTE: It is a crime to provide false information (including a fake name, address, or ID) to the police. Don’t lie. It is better to remain silent.
If you are arrested, and the police want to question you, you have the right as a youth not only to have a lawyer present, but also a parent or guardian. You should talk to a lawyer before answering any questions and the police should not question you until your lawyer is present.
If you blurt out unprompted statements to the police like “I did it and I’ll do it again!” or “I didn’t mean to” for example, they can be used against you even if you haven’t spoken to a lawyer yet.
The police may ask for identification. In most cases, you do not need to provide identification and you do not need to answer police questions though you may choose to do so. In certain circumstances, described below, you are required to provide your name, address and sometimes your date of birth.
In some situations, you must identify yourself to the police by giving your name, address and sometimes your date of birth, even if you decide not to answer their questions. Generally, you must give information to police when:
- Driving: If you are the driver of a car, you must show your driver’s license, insurance and vehicle registration if asked by the police. Passengers do not need to give their names or any other information. If you are in an accident you must stay at the scene and provide an accident report if asked. You have a right to speak to a lawyer before your statement.
- Getting a ticket: If police are giving you a ticket, you must identify yourself, providing your name, address and sometimes, date of birth. You do not need to provide identification. You can tell them this information. If you are riding a bicycle, break a road rule, and the police stop you, you must provide your name and address if asked.
- You are arrested: If you are arrested, you should give your name and address. You do not have to provide any other information and should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.