Legal Rights When Stopped by Police

Ask Questions, Know your Rights, Contact VM Law

As a Canadian citizen or resident, your rights are manifested within the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms. The rights within the charter are embedded as safeguard gateways against injustice. A prominent example illustrating the protection of our rights is that of Section 9, which protects against arbitrary detention.

Can a Police officer stop you? What is the Reason?

The 3 essential grounds for a police officer to stop you:

  1. A police officer observed a crime being committed
  2. A police officer suspected a crime was committed
  3. A police officer observing you operating a motor vehicle questionably


You are entitled to ask questions– know the appropriate questions to ask!

  • Why am I being stopped?
  • If there is no sufficient or reasonable ground for stopping you, and the officer does not allow you to leave, this becomes a  breach to your section 9 right.
  • An officer cannot stop you for no reason!
  • Am I under arrest?
  • If the answer is NO = you are not compelled to provide any further information and you are entitled to leave.

Stopped by Police in a Motor Vehicle

The 3 essential grounds for a police officer to stop you while operating a motor vehicle:

  1. A police officer observed a traffic offence under the Highway Traffic Act being committed
  2. A police officer suspected a traffic offence under the Highway
  3. Traffic Act was committed Traffic Routine Stops (RIDE)


What to do when stopped while in a Motor Vehicle – Driver

Provide essential documentation:

  • Driver’s License
  • Motor Vehicle Registration
  • Motor Vehicle Insurance


Failure to provide essential documentation may lead to a provincial offence that is regulated under the Highway Traffic Act. What to do when stopped while in a Motor Vehicle – Passenger As a passenger in a motor vehicle, you are not obligated to speak nor provide a police officer with your identification.

Stopped by Police on the Street

As previously mentioned, there must be sufficient and reasonable ground for the police to stop you.

You might be intimidated or nervous when stopped by a police officer, the best advice in such a situation is to remain calm & collected. Remember to always conduct yourself in a respectable & polite manner when engaging with an officer, in effect this will result in a less stressful environment.

The Charter encompasses rights such as section 10(a), where individuals being stopped have a right to be promptly informed of the reasons for detainment or arrest.

You may ask questions such as, “Why am I being detained?” or “Why am I being arrested?” At this point, officers are obliged to provide you with reasonable ground.

You are lawfully entitled to remain silent and not answer police questions.

Arrest vs Detained

The two legal terms “arrest” & “detainment” are two distinct police interactions, yet individuals believe that they have the same meaning, this is a common misconception amongst individuals in society.

The major difference is that an arrest is a formal interaction with the police where an individual is being charged with a criminal offence.

In contrast, detainment is an informal interaction with a police officer that does not result in an individual being charged with an offence, nor being relocated to a police station. A police officer does however have the power to ask you questions while detained and will allow you to leave once their questioning is complete.

Stopped by Police and got questions? Schedule a call