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Do I have to answer questions from the police when stopped on the road?

Question
Do I have to answer questions from the police when stopped on the road?

Glossary

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Reviewed: 
October, 2016
Answer

In most situations, you don’t have to answer questions from the police. But it’s a good idea to be polite if you’re stopped and questioned.

Motor vehicle accidents

If you’re in a motor vehicle accident you may be required by law to give a statement to the police. This statement is called an accident report. You are required by law to give police the information necessary to complete the report.

Your accident report cannot be used against you as self-incriminating evidence, but making an untrue statement is an offence under the Highway Traffic Act. Also, if you lie to the police, you can be charged with obstructing justice.

When driving a vehicle

If you're stopped while driving a vehicle, you must show the following to the police when asked:

  • your driver’s licence
  • your vehicle’s registration
  • proof of insurance documents

You don’t have to say anything to the police. Just show them the documents. Anything you say to the police can be used as evidence if you're charged with a criminal offence.

If you don’t show the police your documents, you can be charged with a provincial offence under the Highway Traffic Act. It is a provincial offence to not show the police your insurance card.

When riding a bicycle

The police can stop you while you’re riding a bicycle if they think you’ve broken a provincial or municipal traffic law. If this happens, you must give the police your name and address. If you refuse, they can arrest you. They will keep you until they figure out who you are so they can give you a ticket. You don’t have to show them a licence.

1. Determine whether you have to identify yourself

You must identify yourself if:

  • the police have detained you after an accident
  • the police think you’ve broken a provincial or municipal traffic law while riding your bicycle
  • the police have stopped you while driving a vehicle

If you refuse to identify yourself in these situations, you may get arrested or have to stay with the police longer.

If you’re a bicycle rider, you don't have to show a licence. You can simply give the police your name and address. If you lie about your name or address, you can be charged with obstructing justice or obstructing the police.

If you're stopped while driving a vehicle, you must show the following to the police when asked:

  • your driver’s licence
  • your vehicle’s registration
  • proof of insurance documents
Reviewed: 
January, 2017

2. Decide whether you want to answer questions from the police

In most situations, you don’t have to answer questions from the police. But to avoid spending a lot of time with them, you may want to identify yourself in the following situations:

  • If the police are looking for someone else, you might avoid being arrested by showing them you’re not the person they’re looking for.
  • If the police think you might have committed a criminal offence and you don’t tell them who you are, they could arrest you. They can keep you at the police station until they find out who you are, or need to take you to court for a bail hearing.
  • If the police believe you’ve committed a minor offence and you tell them who you are, they might not arrest you. Instead, they might give you a promise to appear telling you when to go to court.

If you lie about your name or address, you can be charged with obstructing justice or obstructing the police.

Reviewed: 
January, 2017

3. Remain silent

You have the right to remain silent if the police ask you questions.

What to say

If the police are questioning you and you don’t want to answer, tell them. Politely say, “I do not wish to give a statement or answer any questions.” Repeat this statement as often as necessary. By saying this, you make it clear that you have chosen to use your right to remain silent.

Your rights

You have the right to remain silent. In most situations, you don’t have to answer any questions the police ask you. Anything you say to the police may be used as evidence.

It’s usually in your best interest to remain silent. It’s always in your best interest to wait until you’ve talked to a lawyer before you decide whether to answer questions from the police.

Exception for a motor vehicle accident

If you’re in a motor vehicle accident you may be required by law to give a statement to the police. This statement is called an accident report. You are required by law to give police the information necessary to complete the report.

Your accident report cannot be used against you as self-incriminating evidence, but making an untrue statement is an offence under the Highway Traffic Act. Also, if you lie to the police, you can be charged with obstructing justice.

Reviewed: 
November, 2016
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4. Talk to a lawyer

If you've been arrested or detained, you have the right to talk to a lawyer. 

What to say

Just say, "I want to talk to a lawyer." You don’t have to say anything else.

Your rights

The police must tell you that you have the right to talk to a lawyer. If you tell the police you want to talk to a lawyer, the police must allow you to contact a lawyer. You must be allowed to talk to the lawyer in private.

The police must tell you about Legal Aid Ontario. Legal Aid Ontario pays lawyers known as duty counsel to give free legal advice if you've been arrested or detained. This advice is available 24 hours a day. If you've been arrested or detained, you can contact duty counsel immediately. If they don’t tell you, ask the police for the toll-free phone number for duty counsel.

The rights related to talking to a lawyer are called the right to counsel

Reviewed: 
November, 2016
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