My Rights

Driving stops - are there special rules? What are my rights?

Yes. Police are allowed to stop you while you are driving to check that you have the proper documents, to check that your vehicle is in good working order, and to check if you are driving impaired (under the influence of drugs or alcohol).

The police can also stop you if you are violating a traffic law, such as speeding.

Police have broader powers to stop and detain you while driving than they do when you are walking on the street or in other situations.

CCLA and other rights advocates believe that the police powers to stop drivers without a good reason are too broad, and that there should be clear rules to prevent racial profiling by police.

If police stop you while you are driving and ask you for your driver’s licence (and in some provinces, vehicle registration and insurance), the law requires that you give it to them. If any of these documents are in the glove compartment, it is a good idea to tell the officer this, and to let them know, or ask them, before you reach over to get the documents.

Police may also ask you to take a sobriety test to see if you are impaired (under the influence of alcohol or drugs).   The police do not need to suspect that you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs to demand a breath test, and can ask you to take the test even if they stopped you for another reason.  It is a criminal offence to refuse to comply with a sobriety test.

The law does not require you to answer any questions, other than providing these documents and taking this test.

The special rules around police stops and driving are only relevant for drivers, not passengers. For example, while a driver has to turn over their ID, passengers do not (unless there is another reason that justifies a police stop).

A police stop while you are driving is a form of detention – which means that you also have the rights available to any person who is detained. See here for those rights.