In most situations, you have no obligation to talk to the police. You don’t need to stop and talk to them when you are out on the street, at your home, in a shop, when you are at work or at school.
If the police approach you, you can walk away unless you are being detained or it is lawful stop (this pretty much just applies to all traffic check stops). If you’re not sure, just ask, “Am I being detained? Or Am I free to go?” If you are being detained, you still do not have to say anything or let the police search you or your belongings. Being detained does not mean you are arrested it just means you are not free to leave, it can turn into an arrest, but not always.
You have no obligation to tell the police where you are going, what you are doing or who you have been with, and it is always better to say nothing. Be polite, but DO NOT answer their questions just to be polite.
If they ask where you are going, ask “am I free to go?”
If they ask what you are doing, ask “am I free to go?”
If they ask if you’ve been drinking (and you’re not driving) say, “am I free to go?”
If they ask how your night is going say, “am I free to go?”
If the police ask you if they can search something like your vehicle or your bag… it’s because they can’t do it without your permission. In order to search you or your property they need a good reason to believe you committed a crime – or whatever evidence they find could be unusable in Court UNLESS you gave them permission.
So just say NO!
When you are in your house:
The police don’t have the right to come into your house unless they have a good reason to believe that someone is in danger or a crime was committed and evidence will be destroyed if they don’t intervene immediately.
Otherwise, they need a warrant or your permission. If they are asking for your permission it means they probably don’t have a good reason or enough information to get a warrant, and if they don’t get your permission, any evidence they find could be unusable in court.
If the police knock on your door you don’t even have to open the door (unless you are on conditions that you need to present yourself at the door of your residence to any peace (police) officer checking on your compliance with conditions) And you probably shouldn’t.
If they ask if they can come in simply ask if they have a warrant, if they say they don’t have one then politely say no you cannot come in. If they say they do have one it is time to contact a lawyer.
When you are driving:
The rules are little different if you are driving a vehicle. This is because it is a licensed activity and there is a public interest in making sure that people are driving safely. If the police pull you over, it either has to be randomly to ensure you are following the rules of the road, or they have to have a reasonable suspicion (a suspicion that is based on some facts) that you committed a crime.
The only time the police can make you stop without a reason to believe you committed a crime is if you are driving, in which case, you have an obligation to stop so they can ensure you are following all the rules related to driving i.e. that you have a valid driver’s license, that your vehicle is registered and that you are not impaired. The only questions you have to answer are related to license, registration, and sobriety. They are only allowed to detain you for as long as it reasonably takes to determine you are following the rules.
You do not have to answer any questions that aren’t about your driving (license, registration, sobriety, signal lights etc). They don’t have the right to search your vehicle unless they have a good reason to believe you have drugs, open alcohol, or weapons OR you give them permission.
What happens if the police don’t get your permission or detain you without a reason?
If the police search your vehicle, house or person without a reason to believe you committed a crime or your permission, they will have violated your Charter rights. If you don’t give the police permission to do any of these things, they will have to explain to the Court why they thought you committed a crime and if the Judge doesn’t think it was a good reason then they can say that the evidence can’t be used in court (it’s not a guarantee that the judge will say this, but it does happen).
The same goes for when they stop you. You have a right to be free, and so if the police detain you, they have to have a good reason. This is why you ask if you are free to leave, if you ask this and they say yes, you can walk or drive away and we strongly recommend that you leave at the earliest opportunity. If they say yes and you stay you are there voluntarily and your rights are not being violated. On the other hand, if they say no, then you are being detained then they will have to explain to a Court why they believed you committed a crime. If they did not have a reason and they detain, you any of the evidence gathered after that point may be unusable in Court.
By making sure you ask “am I being detained” or saying “this is not voluntary” you ensure that if you are charged with a crime the police will have to justify why they stopped you, why they detained you, why they questioned you, or why they searched you. If you don’t do these things the police can say you were there voluntarily. Sometimes the evidence will show that you were not giving permission or staying voluntarily but if you say it there can be no doubt about it.
Things to say to a cop:
- No you can’t search my vehicle
- No you cannot come into my home
- I want to talk to my lawyer
- You’ll have to ask my lawyer
- Am I free to go?
- I am not here voluntarily
- I am not talking to you voluntarily
What to say when the police ask for your permission:
Say no if you are high, so no if you are eating pie.
Say no on a plane, say no in the rain.
Say no in October, say no if you are sober.
Say no if you are drunk, say no if you are a monk.
Say no if you are rich, say no if you’re in a ditch.
Say no if you committed crime, say no if you are just working overtime.
Say no in Regina, say no if you’ve stolen china.
Say no in Saskatoon, say no to a whole platoon.
Say no Moosomin, say no if they zoom in.
Say no in Estevan, say no in your caravan.
Say no in Broadview, say no in a church pew.
Say no if you stole the Batoche Bell, say no if you live in Fort Qu’appelle.
Say no if you are a mess, say no if you are a success.