Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to Participate in a Police Interview?
Do I have a Right to a Lawyer?
If I make a Statement against someone will they receive it?
Assaulting a Peace Officer
Sexual Assault Law in Canada
Consequences of a Criminal Record
Keeping Charges Private
Travel & US Waivers
Vulnerable Sector Screening
Elements of a Crime
Do I have to Participate in a Police Interview?
When police are conducting an investigation, they will contact potential witnesses and/or suspects and ask them if they will participate in an interview. In many cases, the police will make it seem as though you must provide a statement as soon as possible. They may indicate that it is important that you give your side of the story and ask you to come to the police station right away. Do not provide any information over the phone other than confirming your name. Indicate that you would like to consult with legal counsel prior to agreeing to come in for an interview.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms ensures Canadian’s the right to remain silent and the right to consult with counsel. This means that there is no obligation to answer police questions or to self-incriminate. Anything said to law enforcement, especially during a police interview, can and will be used against you in court should you be charged with an offence.
If you are a witness in the case, you do not have to provide a statement or attend the police station and there is nothing the police can do to compel you to do so. Similarly, if police approach you to ask questions when you are out in public, you are not required to stop to speak with them unless you are being detained or arrested. If you are being detained or arrested, you have the right to continue to remain silent but must tell police your name, date of birth, and address.
An important exception to this rule is if you are operating a motor vehicle, in which cases you must pull over if instructed to by police. During a traffic stop the driver of the vehicle must identify themselves and prove that they are fully licensed, insured, and sober.
If you are a suspect in a criminal investigation, you are not required to provide a statement or turn yourself in. The police may ask you to surrender yourself because it is more convenient for them. If you choose not to surrender yourself, they will likely come to your place of employment or your residence and arrest you.
After being arrested, you continue to have the right to remain silent. Once in custody advise the arresting officers that you do not wish to speak and would like to consult with legal counsel right away. Never try to explain yourself or talk your way out of the situation, this will likely make things worse.
Do I have the Right to a Lawyer?
Yes. Section 10(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that everyone has the right on arrest or detention to retain and instruct counsel without delay and be informed of that right. This means that upon arrest, police must inform you of your right to retain and instruct counsel and then must facilitate contact with counsel of your choice without delay. “Without delay” has been interpreted by the courts to mean immediately, subject only to safety concerns and such limitations prescribed by and law and justified under section 1 of the Charter.
With respect to impaired driving and over .80 offences, an accused is not entitled to consult with counsel prior to providing a roadside breath sample or participating in a roadside sobriety test.
If police have contacted you and asked you to meet them for an interview it is important to consult legal counsel ahead of time. It is important that accused individuals understand their legal rights prior to attending the police station or participating in an interview. Police are often skilled at questioning witnesses and may try to manipulate suspects into divulging damaging information. This information may be used to arrest the individual or used against them in court to gain a conviction. Legal counsel can prepare you for surrender and in many cases facilitate the surrender by contacting the Officer in Charge ahead of time.
If I make a Statement against Someone will they see the Statement?
Yes. In most cases, when you provide a statement to police in a criminal matter, the statement will become part of the disclosure material when charges are laid. Accused individual’s in all criminal cases have the right to full disclosure. This means they are entitled to see all the evidence the Crown and police have collected, including all witness statements.
If you provided a statement to police at the station and the statement was videotaped, the accused is entitled to a copy of the video. Similarly, if you provided a statement over the phone the accused will be provided a copy of the audio.
The Crown will redact all personal information related to a witness or complainant in a criminal case including their address, phone number, place of employment or anywhere else they are known to frequent, unless these facts are material to the case. For example, if an accused person assaults their domestic partner at their partner’s home, the address of the incident will be published in the disclosure.
If the police have contacted you and asked you to provide a witness statement against an individual being investigated for a criminal offence and you have concerns, you may consult with legal counsel prior to providing a statement. It is important to know your rights and how to effectively exercise those rights prior to agreeing to meet with police.