What Are Your Rights if You’re Stopped by the Police?

If you’re stopped by the police, your rights depend on the situation, as they differ according to the circumstances.

If you’re operating a vehicle

If you’re driving a vehicle and you’re pulled over or stopped by the police, you do not have to answer any questions. However, it will be in your best interests to remain civil. What’s more, you have a legal obligation to provide the following three documents:

  • Your driver’s licence
  • Your insurance policy
  • The vehicle’s ownership documents

The police are also legally entitled to check:

  • The vehicle’s registration plate
  • That the vehicle is mechanically fit
  • Whether the driver has consumed alcohol or drugs

If the police officer has reason to suspect you (as the driver) have consumed alcohol or drugs, you can be told to perform a roadside breath test and physical sobriety test. At this stage you don’t have a right to speak to a lawyer.

If there are reasonable grounds to suspect that you are over the legal limit, you can be taken to the police station and told to carry out a breathalyzer test. At this point you do have the right to speak to a lawyer, and you can have this conversation before taking the test.

The police can check the mechanical condition of the vehicle and look through windows, using a flashlight if necessary. But unless you have been arrested or committed a criminal offence, they can only search the vehicle if they have reason to believe they will find illegal drugs, alcohol or artefacts relating to a crime.

If you’re in a car accident

If you’re involved in a road traffic accident and the police ask you questions regarding the incident, you have to answer these questions. If you don’t, it could amount to a criminal offence.

If you’re riding a bicycle

If you are stopped while riding a bicycle because a police officer has seen you commit an offence, you are legally obliged to provide your name and address.

If you’re walking along the street

If you’re walking along the street, or making use of another public space, the police may approach you and ask questions. However, you do not have to answer these questions. You also don’t have to provide your name and address unless you are under arrest or being given a ticket/appearance notice. But you must never provide a false name and address, as this is an offence.
The police also cannot hold you against your will unless you are detained or arrested.
Being detained means that the police are holding you temporarily while they investigate a possible offence but have not actually arrested you. If you are detained that you have the right to speak to a lawyer and the right to remain silent. This means you don’t have to answer any questions. The same applies if you are arrested, although you must provide your name and address.

Criminal lawyers Vancouver

If you are ever stopped by the police then it’s useful to know what your legal obligations and rights are, although you should always remain polite and helpful, so far as is reasonably possible.

If you are detained or arrested, then it’s best to seek advice from a criminal lawyer straight away. While this article provides a general overview, it’s important that you are made fully aware of all your legal rights during this stressful time.

For more information about how our criminal lawyers can help you, please contact us at North Shore Law LLP.

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