The Police Want to Question Me - What are my rights?
Updated: Sep 18, 2019
So, you’ve got the call. The Police want to question you. Now what? Police questioning can occur in a formal interview at a police station or even at your home. Interviews may occur after being arrested, during detention or on a voluntary basis. Individuals often feel obligated to speak with police when questioned, even without first speaking to a lawyer. Give us a call prior to giving any statement.
Section 9 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides individuals the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned. Seems pretty straight-forward, but what exactly does it mean? The Police are not permitted to randomly stop and question people without cause (with the exception of traffic stops – but that is an issue for another day). The Supreme Court of Canada has defined “detainment” to include both physical restraint as well as psychological restraint. Physical detainment is the use of physical means (such as handcuffs or a jail cell) to hold someone against their will. Psychological detainment occurs when an individual is not required by law to comply with the demands of a police officer but is unaware of that fact and reasonably believes that he/she has no choice but to comply.
Immediately after being arrested, the arresting officer will read you your rights. This is the dramatic “you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law” spiel from the Hollywood movies. Interestingly, the movies aren’t that far off.
Under Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, you have the right to remain silent. This applies whether you were stopped by the police on the street, have agreed to attend at the police station for questioning or have been formally arrested. Many people misconstrue this right and think that as soon as they choose to exercise this right, the police are obligated to cease questioning. In Canada, this is not true. In fact, in the 2007 Supreme Court of Canada case of R. v Singh (R. v Singh,  3 SCR 405, 2007 SCC 48), the Court found that the right to silence is not an absolute rule that requires the police to stop interrogating people. The Court found that the right to silence does not mean that the person has the right not to be spoken to by the authorities, they simply have the right not to respond.
So, you’ve been formally charged – what now? The Charter of Rights and Freedoms also affords you various rights on your arrest or detention. These rights, as set out in Section 10 of the Charter, are as follows:
The right to be informed promptly of the reasons for arrest or detention;
The right to speak with a lawyer without delay; and
The right to be informed about the availability of duty counsel and legal aid.
And that’s where we come in. Give us a call and we will help navigate you through your criminal law matter. Whether you’ve been charged, or the police just want to speak with you,