People charged with a crime or who have just been arrested can and often do make poor decisions which can have serious negative implications on their case and their ability to defend themselves.
As such, here are four things not to do when you’ve been stopped by the police or arrested:
1. DON’T put up a fight.
As we see in the news almost every day, police can abuse their authority and act in ways that are not only violations of your rights, but can also involve violence and physical and verbal abuse and harassment. While all of these behaviors are outrageous and angering, physically resisting arrest or engaging in violent behavior will not help your case.
If the police have overstepped their bounds in stopping, searching, questioning, or detaining you, your criminal defence lawyer will be able to use that conduct in your defence to get evidence or the charges themselves thrown out, and may in fact provide you with remedies for potential violations of your constitutional rights. While you can exercise your right to deny consent to a search or refuse to speak without a lawyer present as discussed below, reacting violently could have a negative impact on those defences and remedies.
2. DON’T try to talk your way out of it.
As I discuss in detail here, you do not have to answer any questions until you have had a chance to consult with a lawyer. If, after the police inform you of your constitutional right to a lawyer and you decide to answer their questions anyway, Crown Prosecutors can use your answers against you in court. However familiar you may be with the right to remain silent, you may forget or be apprehensive about exercising that right if you find yourself questioned or detained by the police. Many people impulsively engage in conversation with police after a stop out of nervousness, fear, or their desire to explain that, “this is not what it looks like,” in hopes of being released. This is a risky decision with potentially damaging consequences. The more you talk, the more opportunities you have to weaken the defence of your case. You should never speak to police before consulting with a lawyer. If you decide to speak to the police however, you must speak the truth, because lying to the police can lead to charges of obstruction or public mischief.
3. DON’T consent to a search of your vehicle.
If you’ve been pulled over by the police, they may ask you whether they can search your car. There’s a reason they ask for your permission. As I discuss here, most of the time the police do not have the right to search your car without a warrant. Generally speaking, police can only search your vehicle without a warrant if they have “reasonable” and “probable” cause to do so, or incidental to your arrest.
Courts have held that police may conduct “warrantless searches” of a vehicle where the following factors exist:
- The vehicle contains illegal items;
- Waiting to get a warrant may lead to destruction of the evidence; and
- An offence has been, is being, or is about to be committed and that a search will disclose evidence relevant to that offence.
The interpretation of what is “reasonable” and “probable” has been subject to significant scrutiny by the courts.
Giving your consent to a search is almost always a mistake. Police searches of your car without reasonable grounds may violate your Section 8 Charter rights, leading courts to exclude all evidence collected pursuant to that search. However, if you consent to the search, you are essentially and unnecessarily forfeiting these possible defences.
4. DON’T try to represent yourself.
While you have a right to represent yourself, attempting to act as your own lawyer when facing criminal charges is a very bad idea. Criminal law is complicated, and the rules of procedure and evidence that can both be your enemy and your salvation are nuanced and complex. The criminal justice system sometimes moves quickly and you can easily be steamrolled without having someone by your side who knows how things work at the courthouse and knows how to get things done. A good criminal defence lawyer will also keep you from making mistakes or taking actions that could harm your defence. Trying to save money by representing yourself can be very costly when you consider the consequences of a criminal conviction. You should take the opportunity to exonerate yourself at the first instance (at trial) because appeals can be costly and even more challenging.
Ottawa Criminal Defence Firm Engel & Associates Defends Against Even The Most Complicated Charges
Criminal defence lawyers Bruce Engel and Elena Davies have represented individuals and businesses charged with hundreds of different offences throughout Canada for more than two decades. From the start of a criminal investigation to the close of a trial, we will take a balanced and forceful approach to your defence. We have the experience and know-how to effectively navigate the constantly changing justice system in Canada.
The materials provided on this site are for information purposes only. These materials constitute general information relating to areas of law familiar to our firm lawyers. They do NOT constitute legal advice or other professional advice and you may not rely on the contents of this website as such.