What do you have to tell police when you are the subject of a traffic stop? I’ve often been asked about whether you have to answer the casual conversation at a road check that might include questions like Where are you coming from? Where are you going to? How much have you had to drink tonight? The answer is no, you don’t.
Occasionally I would stop a driver who had committed a traffic violation that would roll down their driver’s window half an inch, poke their driver’s licence out and roll the window back up to await service of a ticket. There are a multitude of reasons for doing this, most innocent, but the first thing that had to come to my mind was that they were trying to hide something and it was my job to find out. It was usually the odour of liquor that the driver did not want wafted in my direction.
I did have one tool at my disposal to force a short conversation. A driver must state his name and address and the name and address of the vehicle’s registered owner when requested to do so by police. This is also useful for what is known as the Shriver’s Test. Case law has established that these answers, when compared to what is shown on the driver’s licence, strengthens the identification of the driver if they match.
Answers to other questions are optional and it is up to you to decide whether you want to provide the information or not. If you choose not to, state your position politely and request that any documents be returned to you so that you may proceed once the officer has completed his or her inquiries.
- Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years, he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and ten as a collision analyst responsible of conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web site.