This is a tricky question, as the advice lawyers often give is difficult to put into practice when one is actually faced with a police officer asking questions of you.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freeedoms gives every Canadian certain protections. One of these protections is the right against self-incrimination. This is the right that allows you to remain silent if you are being charged with an offence.

What about if you’ve simply been stopped by the police, though? In these scenarios, you are only required to give your basic information – name, date of birth and address. If stopped while driving, you would also want to provide any requested documentation such as your driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance documents.

You are not required to say anything past this, however. If the officer asks any further questions, you have the right to ask whether you are being “detained” (think detention) “charged”, or “arrested”. If none of these apply, you have the right to leave the situation.

Common sense and courtesy should prevail, however, and if you wish to exercise your rights, do so in a way that is courteous to the officer. This can help diffuse any potential situation from escalating.

Cassandra DeMelo is a criminal defence lawyer practicing in London, Ontario. Call her for a free 1-hour consultation.