Real English: How to talk to the POLICE

Real English: How to talk to the POLICE

When you go to another country, it is just as important to learn about the culture and the laws as it is the language. In North America, we try to be polite to everyone, including to the police. In this lesson, you will learn the proper way to behave when being stopped by a police officer. Some vocabulary and expressions you will need to understand include “driver’s license”, “fine”, “bail money”, “courts”, “under arrest”, “breaking the law”, and more. It is very important to know what your rights are in the event you do get in trouble, so watch this lesson and stay safe.


After they ask you to stop, they’re going to ask for I.D. For some of you, you’ll say: “What is I.D.?” Well, it’s identification, sort of like your passport or your country… Some people have identification cards in their country. Funny, in Canada, we don’t have this thing. We have drivers’ licenses, and we have passports, but we don’t have citizenship cards, or-sorry-citizen cards. We use our driver’s license. So it might be your citizen card that they would request. If you come to our country, they would ask you for I.D., so you could present your passport or your citizen card. That’s probably all you have. So, number two in the process will be asking for your I.D.

Now, you notice this is orange and we have this strange word: “rights”, and I’m not talking your right hand. In Canada, the United States, Great Britain, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales, they have rights. Or, sorry, you have rights, which mean before you do anything the police say, you are allowed to ask certain questions. So you can say: “I know my rights.” By the way, I would never say that to a policeman who stopped you. You’re just asking for trouble.

But, at the time they ask you to stop or they ask you to give I.D., you can then start using your rights. One of the first things you can say is: “Hi, Officer, what’s your name or badge number?” In Canada, they must give it to you. Okay? But be smart, ask nicely, like: “Okay, no problem, Officer. I just want to know: Who am I talking to? I just want to know I’m talking to the law.” The officer will then either point to their shoulder where there is a number located, or they’ll say their name, which is usually located on the front of their shirt. So: “Officer Johnson, 531 Division.” You go: “Thank you, Officer.”

You can then say this… Remember, each time you’re doing this, police don’t usually like being questioned, so always be polite. Don’t flunk the attitude test. I’ll explain that to you after. So then you can say: “Officer, why am I being stopped?” The officer at that time, especially if they ask for your I.D. must tell you why you’re being stopped. Okay? This will lead to… Well, we go up to here, being charged, but let’s go here first.

You can then say, before they do anything else: “Am I under arrest?” If the officer says: “You’re not under arrest”, you may walk away. You can leave. You can still be polite, and I recommend that, but you don’t have to answer any of their questions, because once the officer has told you why he stopped you or she has stopped you, if you are not under arrest, you do not need to speak anymore. If they ask further questions, you can say: “If I’m not under arrest and you want more from me, I need to talk to a lawyer first, because I don’t know why I’m standing here.” These are your basic rights in Canada, United States, and Great Britain. As I said, each country varies, so be careful. Okay? And always, always, always be polite.

Now, let’s just say you a bad boy or a bad girl. Well, we’ve gone past the rights stage, and the stop, and the I.D., they have to tell you what you’re charged with. That means you’ve done something wrong, and that means you cannot walk away from the police at that point. This is called… You say: “Am I being charged with anything?” They must tell you what you have done. “We think you killed somebody.”, “We think you stole a car.”, “We think you hit someone.”

At this point, something is going to happen, either one or two things. Oh, this is not the good part. If it’s a small thing, and we call it “not criminal”, meaning you didn’t do anything that they need to put you in jail for, you will get a fine. What kind of things? If you’re driving your castal-… Your car a little too fast, or if you drop… Actually, this is true, drop garbage in certain places where you’re not supposed to drop your garbage. You don’t put it away, you drop it on the floor, the police can walk up to you and say: “I’m going to give you a fine.” They will give you a ticket. You’ll notice this. And if you can’t read this, you shouldn’t.