In Canadian law, no one is obliged to talk to the police or to provide a statement of any kind when questioned by the police. The Charter provides that a detained person has a right to consult with a lawyer so that they can be fully advised of their legal rights. Under section 11(c) of the Charter an accused cannot be compelled to be a witness in the proceeding against himself. When the police arrest anyone, they must advise that person of his right to silence and that anything he says to the police can be used against him in court. Despite these Charter-protected rights and the warnings from the police upon arrest or detention, many accused persons provide statements to the police which are frequently video and/or audio-recorded and which become crucial pieces of evidence for the prosecution at trial.
Most experienced criminal defence lawyers will tell you that, in their experience, accused individuals who have provided any kind of a statement to the police are far more likely to be convicted at a trial than people who have kept their mouths shut. I have frequently heard clients state, when asked why they provided a statement to the police, “I am innocent and I have nothing to hide”. Many of these “innocent” people, with nothing to hide, end up spending years in a federal prison.
When an accused provides a statement to the police, even if it is a statement wherein they deny the allegations or, alternatively, say they state they have no recollection of the matter the police are investigating, they end up letting the police determine how their case is going to unfold in court. Once they are released by the police, after having given a statement, they end up visiting an experienced criminal defence lawyer who will obtain a copy of the police file from the Crown Attorney and review it with them. It is at that point that it becomes clear the extreme damage the accused has done to his case by talking to the police. When the police are conducting an interview with a suspect, their objective is to get that person to incriminate himself and made their job of getting a conviction that much easier in court. Many accused individuals think they can talk their way out of being charged. To think that way is to misunderstand how the police work and what the police objectives are in conducting an interview.
When the police interview an accused person, they already have completed an investigation and obtained the evidence they need to make an arrest. Their objective at the interview is to put “icing on the cake” and get admissions which can be used against the accused in court or, alternatively, to trap the accused into making statements, which then ties their lawyer’s hands when the time comes to get ready for a trial. When an accused person has provided a statement to the police, that statement will be used by the prosecutor to cross-examine the accused at trial with the objective of damaging his credibility, which makes it all that much easier for a judge to find an accused guilty.
All experienced criminal defence lawyers will tell their clients not to speak to the police and, if they are arrested, to provide no information other than their name, their address and their date of birth. The only reason to provide that information is because it is required to complete an undertaking to be released from custody. The importance of not talking to the police cannot be overstated. In my experience, cases where accused persons have given statements of any kind to the police are ten times more likely to result in conviction, than cases with people who kept their mouths shut.
Another situation which arises in dealing with impaired driving cases involve scenarios where the accused has driven home and is inside their house with the door closed, when the police come knocking on the door. Very frequently, people who are in their home open the door and end up talking to the police with the result of the police forming the grounds to make a breath demand. It is very unfortunate, from a lawyer’s point of view, to observe in these cases that there was no obligation on the accused to open his door and talk to the police. The police cannot enter someone’s home without a warrant, unless, of course, you invite them in. The unfortunate situation which arises in these cases occurs because people are ignorant of one’s rights when dealing with the police. There is no obligation to answer a knock on your door from the police. There is no obligation to speak to the police. A person in that situation is perfectly entitled to simply go to bed and ignore the police. If the police do eventually show up with a warrant, the legal situation changes and they could legally enter the house.