Police Powers

Police OfficerIf you are stopped by the police, just what is it that the officer is entitled to do? This is a simple enough question, and one that I'm not sure that many drivers and their passengers have stopped to consider. Now that we have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, does a driver have to do anything at all?

The police may stop a vehicle being operated on the highway at any time to insure that the driver is properly licenced and that the vehicle is licenced, insured and in proper mechanical repair. In most cases I stop vehicles because I can see a defect or the driver has committed a driving error. The days of a "routine check" disappeared when the Charter arrived.

The driver's duty is to immediately come to a safe stop when signaled to do so. The operation of the red and blue lights on the patrol car or the hand signals of a uniformed officer are sufficient to require this action. The driver does have some leeway in balancing "immediately" with "safe stop," but a kilometer or two is not immediate.

Once stopped, the driver may be requested to produce a driver's licence, vehicle licence, insurance particulars and sometimes written permissions. If required, the driver must let the officer take these documents in hand and examine them. The driver must also state their proper name and address if asked, even if they have produced the required documents.

If the people inside a vehicle are advised by the officer that a breach of the Motor Vehicle Act has occurred in relation to it, they must identify the driver to the officer if requested to do so. The owner of the vehicle has the same duty whether they are in the vehicle or not.

If the officer chooses to examine the vehicle for mechanical fitness, the driver must move the vehicle as directed and submit to the examination. Depending on the situation, the officer may choose to direct the vehicle to an inspection facility for further examination. If this occurs, the owner or operator is responsible to pay any fees involved.

These are the most common issues involved in traffic stops. There are others, which may be the subject of other articles here in the future.



Decision about when to stop

There was a story floating around the internet about a young lady, who while driving at night along a road, had an unmarked "police" car pull along side, flash some "police" lights indicating she should pull over and stop. She decided to keep driving because the situation appeared to her to not be safe. Her intention was to drive to a service station or strip mall where she felt other people could provide her with some measure of protection.

The story becomes less believable when it tells about her placing a call to the local police dispatch and asking for information about the "police" car. She was told there were no police cars in that area and subsequently officers were dispatched and the person posing as a police officer was arrested.

My question is, what right does a young lady have to insure her safety when asked to stop by a "police" car?

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