When the police or investigators show up at your door to make general inquires relating to a criminal offence, you do not have to answer any of their questions. You have the legal right to remain silent even when not being formally charged for a criminal offence.
Unfortunately, not many people are aware of this right. As a result, people often feel compelled to fully cooperate with law enforcement, only to find themselves becoming a “person of interest in” a crime, a suspect, or actually being charged with the offence. Depending on the situation that you are in, it is often better to keep your silence and politely decline to answer any general inquires or questions.
If the police officer or investigator insists that they need to question you, tell them that you wish to have legal representation. Having access to a lawyer provides you access to legal advice about what you should and should not do. Every situation is different.
Once you are charged with a criminal offence and arrested, it is most often the situation that you will want to do the following:
#1: Remain Silent
The legal right to remain silent (guaranteed by s. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) extends to the period after being arrested and formally charged with a crime. You do not have to answer any questions the police or investigators ask you. You should know, however, that this right does not prohibit the police from asking you questions; it simply means that you do not have to answer any questions.
#2: Contact a Lawyer
You have the legal right to consult with your criminal defence lawyer (guaranteed by s. 10(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) upon detention/arrest. It is strongly recommended that you exercise this right so that you can receive proper advice. If you do not have a lawyer, you will be able to speak with “duty counsel”, free of charge.
#3: Speak to Your Lawyer Privately
The police must provide a room where you can talk to your lawyer privately. The room must be free of one-way mirrors and listening devices. Further, any cameras or other monitoring equipment that may be in the room must be turned off; recording a person speaking with their lawyer is prohibited.
#4: Listen to Your Lawyer’s Advice
Perhaps one of the most important things you can do is to follow the advice given to you by your lawyer. You will no doubt be in a stressful situation. The lawyer will be able to advise you on what is most appropriate for your situation to obtain the best outcome possible.
#5: Discuss your Plan of Release with Your Lawyer
Many people charged with criminal offences are released from the police station. Others are held for a bail hearing. You will want to speak to your lawyer about this and if it is likely that you will require a bail hearing, assist the lawyer by providing the names and contact information of people (family, friends, etc.) that may be able to act as a surety to assist you in getting bail.
#6: Prepare Your Defence
After being released on bail, schedule an appointment at your lawyer’s office to start preparing your defence to the charges.
Understandably, being charged with a crime and being arrested is stressful enough. Yet, it would help if you remember these tips to help protect your legal rights and avoid self-incrimination.
This article is not intended to provide legal advice. It simply provides some general information that may be useful. Should you require legal advice, you will need to speak directly with a lawyer.
Should the police want to conduct general inquiries or charge you for a criminal offence, get the legal advice and representation you need by contacting Toronto criminal defence lawyer Brian Ross. Call (416) 658-5855 for the help you need today!