Anything you say to police can be used against you at some point, so it is important to know your rights. Generally speaking, you do have the right not to answer any questions police ask you, though you may be required to give your name and address. If you are asked to provide your name and address, you can ask the police why they want your information, but if they have a lawful reason, it is an offence not to provide it. Unless you are arrested, police do not have to specifically tell you that you have the right to speak to a lawyer, though you are free to contact a lawyer before giving a statement to police.
Unless you are under arrest, you can decide at any point during your statement that you would no longer like to continue. It is important to remember that, even though police may initially question you as a witness, the investigation can change, and if you are later considered a suspect, the information you previously provided can be used against you. Sometimes, the information given in your statement when questioned as a witness can give police enough evidence to arrest you, and they can then question you as a suspect. Regardless of whether you are a suspect or a witness, the police can’t force you to make a statement. However, if they would like to use you as a witness in their case, they can subpoena you to give evidence in court. If you receive a subpoena, you are legally required to attend at the trial, and will be questioned under oath.
Ron Ellis Law is a criminal defence firm based in London, Ontario and we practice criminal defence law all over Southwestern Ontario, including Grand Bend, Sarnia, Woodstock and Kitchener.