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Senior Contributor

Traffic stops, what to do

Here are some suggestions about what to do and what you are legally required to do in Canada and the US if stopped on the highway by police.


First, here are the basics:

Driving is considered a privilege, not a right, meaning police have wide discretion on the roads.
While legally police do have to have a reason to pull you over, in reality police can and do pull people over for no reason. "They can stop you and you don't have to have done anything wrong," says Toronto criminal defence lawyer Ryan Handlarski.
You must pull over if an officer wants you to.
You must show police your licence, registration and insurance information when asked but are not obliged to answer any other questions or provide details that would incriminate you, says Handlarski. This differs slightly from street checks, or "carding," where you do not have to provide any identification.
In Canada, passengers do not have to give police their identification. Police can, however, ask passengers questions. In the U.S., police can legally demand information from passengers, too.
In most cases, police can't search your car without arresting you first, or without a warrant. This also differs from our southern counterparts. In the U.S., police can search your car if they have reason to believe it contains evidence of a crime. U.S. police can even take your car apart. "When they say search your car, that means everything — including pulling the fenders off, pulling the gas tank out," says Scott Greenfield, a New York-based criminal defence lawyer.
You must obey any lawful command a police officer gives you.


Now I wish someone had pulled over the Illinois driver on the 401 tonight who was happily driving along in the left hand lane on the 401 about 110 km/hr, pretty much what the trucks were doing while cars were travelling around 115 and up.


We cruised along at 118 and were lucky as we passed him on the right between two trucks but last I saw there were only a couple more that made it past him on the right and  a long line of cars stuck behind him waiting for a chance to pass on the right between some trucks.


In the 150 kms we were on the 401 we saw 3 cruises with vehicles stopped on the other side, none on our side.