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Call 9-1-1 to call the police right away. If it is safe and you are not threatened, wait for the police officers to come. The police will talk to you and other witnesses. Witnesses are the people who saw the crime happening. If a witness cannot speak English, the police will get an interpreter. Police officers ask witnesses for their name, address and phone number, and to describe the crime.
Witnesses are very important to Canadian law. If a witness doesn’t talk to the police, the police might not be able to arrest the criminal. The criminal might go free, and there could be more crime. If you see a crime happening, it is your duty to talk to the police.
There are different rules if you are driving a vehicle than if you are stopped walking on the street. In a vehicle, you are required to provide a valid driver’s license and vehicle insurance documents. Police have the right to temporarily detain you and others in the vehicle.
In most other situations, if you are stopped and questioned by the police, you do not have to answer their questions, but it is a good idea to be polite and provide assistance if possible.
If the police suspect you of a crime, they can detain and arrest you. They can charge you with a crime and hold you in custody before you go to court. If you have been charged with a crime, the police will provide a document that describes the charge against you and lists the date of your court appearance. Never sign a legal document unless you fully understand what you are agreeing to.
In most cases, police officers wear uniforms and are easily identifiable. However, undercover police officers do not wear uniforms. Undercover police officers are not allowed to ignore your rights. If you are not sure, ask for identification. A police officer is required by law to present you with identification.
If a police officer hits you or acts unprofessionally, you have the right to complain. To make a complaint about police, go to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner: www.OPCC.bc.ca and click on file a complaint. To make a complaint about an RCMP officer, go to the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP at http://www.cpc-cpp.gc.ca.
If you have been arrested or detained by the police for a criminal matter, contact Legal Services
Society to find out if you qualify for free legal aid: 1-866-458-5500.
The best response is to tell the officer “No English.” The police officer can locate a translator for you. If you are a victim of crime or a witness, contact VictimLinkBC: 1-800-563-0808 – they have translators that can help.
Last reviewed: March 2016
IMPORTANT: This page provides legal information, not legal advice. If you need legal advice consult a lawyer.
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