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The Police


Part 1: Contact with the police


1      When might I come into contact with the police?

The police may be in contact with you if they reasonably think that you have broken or are about to break the law (commit an offence). They may also contact you if they think you were a witness or have information about an offence.  The police should protect and help all members of the public, so if anyone threatens or harms you, you can call the police for help.


2      Can the police stop me and question me for no reason at all?

No. A police officer should not stop you for questioning without having a reason for thinking you have broken or are about to break the law. The police can ask you questions if they think you may have information, but you do not have to answer.

3      If the police stop me and ask for my name, address, and age, should I answer?

It is a good idea to answer these questions politely. Then you should ask the police officer why he or she wants to talk with you. If the police believe you have committed an offence, they will sometimes let you off with a warning, but if you do not give your name, address, and age, they might feel that they must arrest you to get this information. You should ask the police officer if you are under arrest!


4      What if the police ask me other questions?

You do not have to answer. You cannot be arrested for refusing to answer other questions.


5      What if the police stop my car?

If you are driving, you must show the police your driver's license, car registration and insurance.


6      When can I be searched?

The police can search you when you have been arrested or when they believe you are carrying illegal drugs or a weapon. The police can also search you when they believe you have liquor in your possession and you are under the legal drinking age. They can also search you if you let them.  If the police ask if they can search you and you donít say anything, they may assume you donít object to being searched.


7      Can they search my house or car at any time?

Not without your permission. The police can only search your house or car against your will if they have a search warrant* or if they have a reasonable belief that an offence is being committed there and it would be impractical to get a search warrant.  In some situations they must be certain that an offence is being committed in order to search your house.


8      What does that mean?

If, for example, you were having a party and the police walked by and saw a jar of white powder, they could not enter your house without a search warrant because they would only have a suspicion that an offence (the possession of cocaine) was being committed there. In order for them to enter, they would have to have your permission or more evidence* of an offence being committed or a warrant.  For example if through a window, they saw someone in your house attack another person with a weapon, they would probably have enough evidence to enter without a warrant.


9      If the police believe that I have broken the law, do they have to charge me?

No. The police can give you a warning or a caution. 


10    If the police charge me with an offence, do they have to take me to the police station or detain me?

No. The police do not have to detain you. If they do not detain you, both you and your parent(s) will get notices that explain:

  • the offence(s) with which you are charged,

  • the date and time when you must be in court,

  • the court's address, and

  • your right to be represented* by a lawyer.  s. 26

 The police can also ask you to agree to specific conditions in order to avoid being detained.


Part 2: Being under arrest


1      When can I be arrested?

Only when a police officer believes that:

  • you have committed an offence,

  • you are committing an offence,

  • you are about to commit an offence,

  • they have a warrant for your arrest.

2      Will I always be arrested under these circumstances?

No. The police can decide whether or not to arrest you and to lay charges*. In making this decision, they may look at such things as:

  • your criminal record (if you have one),

  • previous police warnings or cautions to you, and

  • your attitude and behaviour during your contact with the police.

See Section  -- Extrajudicial Measures and Sanctions


     What if I do not know if I have been arrested?

Ask. The police must tell you if you are under arrest and on what charge(s). If you are not under arrest, you are free to go on your way.


4      What happens when I am arrested?

The police can take you to the police station or give you an appearance notice.


5      If I am arrested, what are my rights?

You have:

  • the right to know why you are under arrest, and

  • the right to get and be represented by a lawyer without delay.  s. 25

The police have to explain these rights to you in a way you can understand.


6      Do I have any other rights at the time I am arrested?

You also have the following rights that the police should tell you about:

  • the right not to make any statements (but you should, and must in some cases, tell the officer your name, address, and age). Remember: Anything you tell the police may be used later in court.

  • the right to talk to a lawyer and your parents or another adult before you make any statements; and

  • the right to have a lawyer and your parents or another adult with you if the police question or interrogate you, whether or not you decide to make a statement.

If you are arrested, the police are required by law to notify your parent(s) whether you want them to or not.  s. 26



Part 3: At the police station


     When I get to the station, can I call someone?

Yes. The police must allow you to make phone calls to a lawyer, and your parents or an adult friend who will help you.


2      What if I don't know the name of a lawyer to call?

You can:

  • call a lawyer ("duty counsel") to give you free legal advice. If you are arrested or detained, ask the police for the phone number,

  • call the local Legal Aid office (look in the white pages under "Legal Aid"),

  • look under "Lawyers" in the yellow pages. If it is at night, find a lawyer in the yellow pages and then look up the lawyer's home number in the white pages,

  • call your parent(s) or a friend to ask them to get a criminal defence lawyer for you, or

  • call your provincial or territorial law society to see whether they have a service to offer you to a lawyer.

3      Will I be questioned at the police station?

Usually, yes, but not without having had a chance to talk to a lawyer first, and not without having your lawyer and your parent(s) or another adult present.


4      Must I answer?

No. You do not have to say anything, and the police must inform you of this right not to make any statements.  s. 146(2)(b)(i)


5      What if I want to give a statement?

Giving a statement means answering questions or talking to the police about what happened. You have the right to have a lawyer and your parent(s), or an adult with you before and while you make a statement. The police must tell you about this right. If you want to make a statement, you should wait until a lawyer who you have contacted is present, and you have talked to your lawyer in private.  s. 146(2)(b)


If you "blurt out" a statement before the police officer has had a chance to tell you about these rights, they may still be able to use your statement against you - s. 146(3).  Even if they forget to tell you about your rights, a judge might agree that your statement can be used as evidence.*


6      The police are telling me that I can make a statement without talking to a lawyer first.  Is this right?

It is legally correct.  You can "waive" or give up your right to talk to a lawyer and/or your parent(s) before making a statement, but it is not a good idea to do this. Normally, the police officer has to either videotape you or get you to sign something saying that you agree to this. However, they may be able to use your statement in court even if they do not do this as long as your decision was voluntary.  s.146(4)-(6)


     If I do make a statement, how will it be used?

Anything you say that shows you were involved in an offence can be used against you in court.  Refusing to sign a written statement will not stop it from being used against you in court.  If you want to make a statement, you should wait until you have talked to a lawyer and the lawyer is with you.


Any statement you make to the police can only be used if it is given voluntarily. If you have made a statement without talking to a lawyer first, check with your lawyer after the statement to see if it was made voluntarily.


Note: If you make a statement in order to be eligible for an extrajudicial measure,* your statement cannot be used against you in court.  s.10(4)  See Extrajudicial Sanctions.


8      When I have been arrested, can the police take my fingerprints or photographs?

With some offences, the police can take your fingerprints and photographs after you are charged Ė s.113.  Usually, you will be given a notice telling you where and when you are required to go and have this done.  You should not ignore this notice. You can be charged if you fail to show up.


9      What happens to my fingerprints and photographs if I am found not guilty?

The investigating police force can keep your fingerprints and photographs as well as reports relating to the incident. The police may destroy them after certain periods of time.  There are also places (called repositories) where fingerprints, photographs and records may be kept longer. The law on this is complicated and may be different in different provinces and territories, so if you have any questions, you should consult a lawyer. As long as your photograph remains in the police files, it can be shown to witnesses during criminal investigations to identify suspects.  s. 128


10    What can happen to me after we are finished at the station?

The police may have you sign a form that says you promise to appear in court at a certain time and date. After you sign the form, the police will let you go home.  s. 28 YCJA and s. 497 C.C.C.


11    Will the police always let me go home from the station?

No. The police can hold you if it is necessary to:

  • find out who you are,

  • get or keep evidence* of the offence,

  • keep you from committing the same offence again or a new offence, or

  • make sure that you will appear in court.  s. 28 YCJA and s. 497 C.C.C.

If the police do hold you, they must bring you before the court within 24 hours or as soon as possible to have the court decide on whether to release you or continue to detain you until your trial.


12    Do my parent(s) have to know about my court appearance?

Yes. They will get written or oral notice of your charge and the time and date you are to be in court.  s. 26


13    What if my parent(s) are not available or I am married?

If your parent(s) cannot be found or they are not available, you may suggest a relative or adult who would help you - s. 26. If you are married, your spouse may receive notice instead of your parent(s).


14    Can the police ever use physical force against me?

Yes. An officer is allowed to use as much force as is needed to:

  • enforce the law,

  • prevent the escape of someone who is being arrested but only if the escape cannot be stopped in a less violent way, or,

  • prevent a serious crime.  s. 25 C.C.C.

15    Can the police use physical force against me to make me answer questions or give them a statement?

No. If the police force you to give a statement, that statement cannot be used against you in court, and the force used may be considered an offence on the part of the police.


16    What can I do if I have a complaint against a police officer?

Talk to a lawyer about what happened. Your lawyer can help you make a complaint, lay charges* against the police officer or sue the police for damages.


Call your provincial or territorial law society or community legal clinic to find out how to make a police complaint.


17     It is difficult to prove that a police officer has treated me badly.  What can I do to improve my chance of being believed?

You can:

  • talk to a lawyer immediately;

  • go to your doctor if you have any cuts and bruises;

  • take pictures of any visible injuries;

  • notice whether anybody aw what the police did and try to get their name and telephone number so they can be called, if needed;

  • get and write down the police officer's name and badge number. If you cannot get this information, take note of the police car number and the time of day;

  • once you are arrested get someone you know and trust to be with you as soon as possible;

  • as soon as you are released by the police, write out a description of what happened and date your report.