What Rights Do You Have When Stopped By Police in Toronto While Driving?

PUBLISHED ON June 30, 2020

Traffic offences toronto

When you are pulled over by the police, it can be rather stressful. You may not know what you did wrong and the reason why the police have stopped you.  If this happens to you, take a deep breath – remember you have rights that are guaranteed to you under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

While you have several rights, the following have specific application to traffic stops:

Section 7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

Section 8. Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.

Section 9. Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.

Section 10. Everyone has the right on arrest or detention

  • (a) to be informed promptly of the reasons therefor;
  • (b) to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right; and
  • (c) to have the validity of the detention determined by way ofhabeas corpus and to be released if the detention is not lawful.

Section 24.

(1) Anyone whose rights or freedoms, as guaranteed by this Charter, have been infringed or denied may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances.

(2) Where, in proceedings under subsection (1), a court concludes that evidence was obtained in a manner that infringed or denied any rights or freedoms guaranteed by this Charter, the evidence shall be excluded if it is established that, having regard to all the circumstances, the admission of it in the proceedings would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

These rights provide specific protections and limit what the police can and cannot do. If the police violate your rights in any manner, regardless of the reason for why they stopped you, it could constitute grounds to have your charges dismissed.  A violation of your rights as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, can result in the evidence obtained as a result of the violation being excluded from evidence at your trial.  This includes statements and physical evidence.  When this happens, the Crown can no longer rely on that evidence in their case against you. This often means that there is no longer a case against you at all and as such, the charge(s) are dismissed.

When an individual is stopped while driving a vehicle, the police have the right to ask the driver to provide identification, vehicle registration and proof of insurance. By law, a driver must provide these things when directed to do so by a police officer.  In normal circumstances, the same does not hold true for a passenger in a motor vehicle – except under specific circumstances, a passenger is not required to provide identification.  This is a complicated area of law and it simply not possible to provide legal advice on this issue here.

No occupant in a vehicle is not required to answer questions about where they are heading, where they are coming from, whether they have anything they shouldn’t have in the vehicle or any other similar type questions.  This does not mean that an officer cannot ask those types of questions, however.

Similarly, an officer might ask to search the vehicleNobody has to consent to a vehicle search.  The lawfulness of a vehicle search is dependent on the factual situation.  A police officer who stops someone for simply speeding or failing to signal a turn has no grounds to search a vehicle.  Conversely, if an individual is placed under arrest for a DUI offence or for possession of a controlled substance, the officer may very well have the lawful authority to search the vehicle pursuant to a lawful arrest.  A lawyer might choose to challenge the lawfulness of this type of arrest/search at trial and if successful, the fruits of the unlawful search might be excluded at the trial.

This is a very complicated area of law and the different factual scenarios are too numerous to list.  As such, it is not possible to give legal advice in this kind of a format.  If you have been arrested and charged with a criminal offence and believe your rights were violated, or need sound legal advice on how to fight the charges, please feel free to contact Toronto criminal defence lawyer, Brian Ross at (416) 658-5855 to schedule a consultation today!


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Brian Ross is a founding partner at Canada’s largest criminal Law firm, Rusonik, O’Connor, Robbins, Ross & Angelini, LLP. Prior to founding this firm, Brian was a partner at Pinkofskys, a leading law firm famous for its vigorous defence of its clients.

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