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Do I have to show my ID to the police if I go outside during the COVID-19 situation?

Do I have to show my ID to the police if I go outside during the COVID-19 situation?
Reviewed: 
June 29, 2020
Answer

On March 17, 2020, a state of emergency was declared in Ontario in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These emergency rules have been extended to July 29. That date could change again.

As part of the Ontario government’s emergency rules, any provincial offences officer may stop you and ask you to identify yourself if they have “reasonable and probable” grounds to believe you’re breaking an emergency order. This includes:

  • police officers,
  • First Nations constables,
  • special constables, and
  • municipal by-law enforcement officers.

For example, the police may stop you and ask you to identify yourself if they have grounds to believe you’re breaking an emergency order. For example, because you’re at a playground or basketball court.

When you’re asked to identify yourself, you must provide your:

  • correct name
  • date of birth
  • address

If this happens, you can ask the police what law they believe you’re breaking. Remember, you also have a right to remain silent when questioned by the police and a right to counsel.

However, to avoid a ticket, you may decide it’s best to cooperate and tell the police why you’re outside if you’re not committing a crime or breaking an emergency order.

If you’re breaking the emergency rules, the police can charge you with one or more offences under the Provincial Offences Act. For example, you can be charged for not identifying yourself and for not following an emergency order.

You may receive a ticket or summons to provincial offences court.

The minimum punishment for each provincial offence is a fine of $750, or $1,000 if you try to stop the officer from giving you or someone else a ticket. The maximum punishment for each offence is one year in jail, or a fine of up to $100,000.

Keep in mind that many municipalities have also passed their own by-laws with fines that may be different than the provincial amounts.

And, if you refuse to identify yourself to a police officer, it’s possible that you can be charged with the criminal offence of obstruct police. This could mean you might be held for a bail hearing.

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