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12.22.2016 | Driving Tips

Know Your Rights During a Traffic Stop

For many people, just seeing the flashing lights of a police cruiser in your rear view mirror can cause your heart to sink. While practicing safe driving habits is the best way to avoid being pulled over, knowing your rights as an Ontario Driver can help put your mind at ease in the event of a traffic stop.

Remember, driving is a privilege, not a right. As a driver you must obey the rules of the road and that includes the rules pertaining to traffic stops. Here are some of the top questions Ontario Drivers have when it comes to traffic stops:

When can I be pulled over?

According to the Highway Traffic Act, a police officer has the right to pull you over at any time for any of the following four reasons:

  1. If you have committed a driving offense
  2. To determine if
    1. your vehicle is safe and in good working order
    2. your license and insurance are valid
    3. you’ve consumed drugs or alcohol

Failing to stop when pursued by a police officer carries a hefty fine, demerit points, and can even lead to imprisonment.

Do I have to answer their questions?

Upon pulling you over, the officer may ask to see your license, registration and proof of insurance. You are not obligated to answer any other questions. However, it is advisable to be polite during a traffic stop.

Do I have to complete a sobriety or breathalyzer test?

It’s also important to remember, a police officer has the legal right to request a sobriety test if they suspect you have consumed drugs or alcohol. Many people incorrectly believe you can decline a sobriety test - this is not the case.

It is important to know you do not have the legal right to decline a roadside sobriety test or breathalyzer test in Ontario and you do not have the right to contact a lawyer prior to taking the test . If you decline, you can be charged under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Can the officer search my car?

The police cannot search your car at random. According to the Peel Regional Police:

“The police are only allowed to search your car if they have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that there are illegal drugs or alcohol or evidence relating to the commission of a crime in the car. They must also believe that the evidence, drugs or alcohol would be removed or destroyed if they were to get a search warrant.”

However, the officer is allowed to look into your car windows and are allowed the use of a flashlight at night. Whether or not they look into your vehicle is up to the officer’s discretion. If a police officer requests to search your vehicle, it is within your right to speak with a lawyer first.

What if I am charged?

If you are charged with a driving-related offense, you may decide to fight the charge to prevent a conviction. It’s recommended you contact legal counsel such as OTT legal for advice in this situation. A conviction on your driving record can impact your insurance rates for years to come and therefore, fighting the ticket may be your best option. For more information on fighting traffic tickets, visit OTT Legal online.

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