Searches, Charges, and Arrests

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can the police search me without a warrant?

    Many people are under the mistaken belief that the police do not have the right to carry out a search without a warrant. There are a number of situations in which the police are entitled to conduct a search without first obtaining a warrant. For example, the police may perform a “frisk” search on an individual that is incidental to a lawful arrest or detention.

  • Can the police search my home without a warrant?

    Usually, the police cannot enter any residence against the occupant’s wishes unless they have a valid search warrant. However, a warrant is unnecessary if the police are invited into the home. Another exception is when a hang up call is received and the police believe that someone in the home may be in danger.

  • I was stopped by a police officer and asked for identification. Did I have to provide it?

    No one can be forced to provide a name, address, or other information, show identification, or go with a police officer unless they have detained you, which means they are preventing you from leaving. The police are allowed to detain you to investigate if they have reasonable grounds to believe you have committed an offence, but they must tell you in clear and plain language why they are detaining you and advise you of your right to speak with a lawyer. If you are detained and asked to provide information about your identity, you must provide it. If you are not sure if you are being detained or not, simply ask the police officer. They must tell you.

    Exceptions to this rule are when a person is charged with an offence but has not actually been arrested yet, or if a person is detained when driving a vehicle. In such cases, the police have the right to find out your identity.

  • Do I have to show the police my insurance when I am stopped while driving?

    You are required to show the police your automobile insurance, driver’s license, and proof of ownership if stopped while driving.

  • Can I lay criminal charges myself?

    You can attempt a private prosecution. If successful, a judge will order that charges be laid against the accused. For more details on private prosecutions, contact a lawyer or a local court house.

  • I have been charged with theft. I received a notice saying I have to go for fingerprinting. Do I have to go even if I haven’t been convicted?

    You must attend for fingerprinting regardless of whether you have been convicted of an offence or not. Attending for fingerprinting is a condition of your release and you must attend as directed. If you do not attend for fingerprinting, you could be charged and a warrant could be issued for your arrest.

  • I was caught shoplifting and the store said that they were not going to charge me. Recently I received a letter from the store demanding payment of $400. What happened?

    The letter is a request for civil damages. It is separate from any criminal proceedings and does not mean that you have been charged with any offence.

  • Do the police need a warrant to arrest me?

    The police do not need a warrant to arrest an individual they find committing a criminal offence. They can also arrest without a warrant any individual who has committed an indictable offence, or if they believe, on reasonable and probable grounds, that the person is about to commit an indictable offence.

  • What rights do I have when arrested?

    The police officer must give you the following information upon arrest:

      • They must tell you that you are under arrest,
      • They must give the reason for the arrest,
      • They must tell you about your right to call a lawyer and the availability of Legal Aid Duty Counsel, and
      • They must inform you that anything you say may be used in evidence.
  • What am I required to do when arrested?

    An individual who is under arrest must go with the police, give a name and address, and have fingerprints and a photograph taken. Although the police have the right to ask further questions as part of their investigation, you have the right to remain silent and can refuse to make a verbal or written statement or sign a confession.

  • Will I be allowed to go home after I am arrested?

    You may be released on an appearance notice or on a promise to appear. You must attend court on the date stated in the notice. You could also be served with a summons to appear in court at a future date. In some cases, a person is kept in custody after being arrested and will need to apply for bail in order to be released.