By Hosseini Law Firm
Generally you do not have to talk to the police. This applies to both those being investigated and witnesses. If the police ask you to give a statement or answer questions, you may refuse. You have the legal right to remain silent.
Your right not to speak to the police when questioned is part of your fundamental right to be free from self-incrimination; that is, to not provide the police with evidence that may be used against you.
You have a duty to identify yourself by giving them your name, however, and in some circumstances, your birth date and address.
If you refuse to identify yourself to the police, they can hold you in custody for the purposes of determining who you are.
The scenario is common. The police might think that you know about an incident.
The police may or may not be seeking to charge you. Or suppose you have already been charged, or are at the police station and about to be charged. You might think that you can avoid being charged by telling your story, or “talking your way out of it”.
Remember: the role of the police in investigating crime is to charge people whom they have reasonable grounds to believe have committed a criminal offence.
To lay a charge, a police officer must have grounds to believe they are justified in doing so. In most circumstances, if they have grounds, they will lay the charge. Thus, when a police officer asks for a statement from someone who has not been charged, it usually means they do not have grounds to lay the charge.
Any statement may just provide those grounds.
The police must tell you of your right to remain silent.
The reason for the right to silence is to give you the opportunity to speak to a lawyer and then make a free and meaningful choice about whether to speak.
After speaking with the lawyer, the police can continue to ask you anything they want without the presence of a lawyer.
The general rule of thumb is to refrain from speaking with the police. The three situations below underscore your right to remain silent.