Area of Law: Criminal Law
Answer # 766
What to do if you are 'suspected' of committing a crimeRegion: Ontario Answer # 766
When can someone be suspected of committing a crime?
There are many circumstances where someone may be suspected of committing a crime, such as:
- An employee may be suspected of committing theft or fraud from the employer, and
- A teacher may be suspected of assaulting or sexually assaulting a student.
In the current climate of the Me Too movement, complainants are becoming more aware that, if they accuse someone of committing a sexual assault or assault, the police or other authorities are now more willing to listen to them and take action. Similarly, the person suspected of committing a crime needs to know his or her rights. If you are being questioned about a crime that you are suspected of having committed, or if you have been charged with a crime, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.
Does someone suspected of a crime have the right to speak to a lawyer?
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms only requires that people accused of a crime are to be made aware of their right to speak to a lawyer once they are detained by, or on behalf of, law enforcement. However, there are many circumstances when people may be suspected of committing a crime and are questioned by the police, but are not actually detained by the police. In such cases, the police are not required to tell the accused person that they have the right to speak with a lawyer before answering any questions.
If someone is confronted with an allegation of criminal wrongdoing, they are not required to respond. In fact, it is best for them to consult a criminal defence lawyer before saying anything to anybody about the matter, as the accuser may be trying to get the person to:
- admit that they did something wrong, or
- offer an excuse or defence that can be later proven to be false.
Whether contacted by the police, an accuser, or anyone on behalf of an accuser, to explain “your side of the story”, the person being accused of a crime should tell whoever contacted them that they will be hiring a criminal lawyer who will contact the police (or the accuser, as the case may be) to discuss the matter in more detail.
What if the police ask you to come to the police station?
In some cases, the police will contact a person suspected of a crime and ask them to come to the station to discuss the matter. In such cases lawyers will advise their clients that there is no obligation to attend at the police station unless they are actually being charged. However, the lawyer and client will need to discuss whether there would be some benefit to speak to the police even if they are not required to do so.
Experienced criminal defence lawyers will only advise their clients to speak to the police if:
- the police have indicated they are keeping an “open mind” about whether to charge the client, and would like to hear his or her side of the story,
- the lawyer has received enough information from the police and the client in order to properly advise the client, and
- the lawyer has made the risks clear to the client, specifically, the risk of potentially incriminating himself or herself by talking to the police if the information provided is later proven to be false or actually contributes to proving the client’s guilt.
It is important to remember that, at this early stage of the criminal process, there are many facts the suspected person will not know, and for which accusers will be looking for answers and/or admissions of guilt. By hiring a lawyer immediately, an accused person will be able to refer all questions to their lawyer, and will have the benefit of an experienced criminal defence lawyer to protect their rights.
If you have been suspected of committing a crime, or are charged with a crime, contact our preferred criminal defence experts: The Criminal Law Team .
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