Understanding Your Right to not be compelled to testify against Yourself: A Guide for the Criminally Accused

When facing criminal charges, it's crucial to understand your rights and particularly the right against being compelled to testify against yourself. This right is enshrined in Section 11(c) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and plays a pivotal role in the criminal justice process

A related, but separate right, is the right to remain silent protected by Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 7 protects those being investigated (or who have been charged) from incriminating themselves by guaranteeing the right to remain silent while Section 11(c) protects an individual from being forced to give testimony against himself or herself. 

Section 11(c) ensures that an individual charged with an offence is not compelled to be a witness against themselves in the proceedings related to that offence. This section is in harmony with international human rights standards, specifically mirroring Article 14(3)(g) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Have you been charged with a criminal offence? Call (306) 994-9522 to receive a free consultation with a criminal lawyer.

Autonomy and Protection Against Self-Incrimination

The principle underlying this right is the preservation of individual autonomy. It upholds the notion that the burden of proof lies with the prosecution (Crown), and there is no obligation for the accused to furnish evidence against themselves.

Conditions for Protection

For the right against self-incrimination under Section 11(c) to apply, three conditions must be met:

  • The individual must be compelled to be a witness.
  • The compulsion must occur in proceedings against the individual.
  • The proceedings must be in respect of the offence charged. 

Scope and Limitations

While Section 11(c) protects against oral or testimonial compulsion, it does not extend to physical evidence, such as fingerprints or breathalyzer tests. Private journals and other similar evidence are also not covered under this section. Search warrants (Section 8 of the Charter) may be required to obtain this evidence.

Choosing to Testify

An accused has the freedom to choose to testify or remain silent. Importantly, silence cannot be interpreted as an admission of guilt. However, if the court is convinced of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, silence might be seen as confirmatory.

Are you facing criminal charges? Dial (306) 994-9522 for a free consultation with a criminal lawyer. 

Tactical Pressure vs. Legal Compulsion

It's essential to distinguish between tactical pressure and legal compulsion. The existence of strong evidence against an accused does not legally compel them to testify; it remains a tactical decision.

Limitation to Judicial Proceedings: Section 11(c) does not offer protection against pre-trial police questioning. Its scope is limited to judicial proceedings. The right to remain silent under Section 7 addresses these issues. 

Implications for Co-Accused: When multiple individuals are charged with the same offence, one may not be compelled to testify against the other if the matters are proceeded with jointly.

When the Accused is the Plaintiff: In cases where an individual must challenge a government decision in court and is technically a plaintiff, Section 11(c) still applies if the proceeding is related to the offence they are charged with.

Application in Different Proceedings

This right protects against self-incrimination in criminal, quasi-criminal, or regulatory proceedings. However, it does not apply to civil proceedings or other separate legal matters, even if they arise from the same facts as the criminal charge.

Retain Nicholas Robinson Criminal Lawyer to Fight Your Charges 

Nicholas Robinson is a criminal lawyer with offices in Regina, Saskatchewan and Toronto, Ontario who is dedicated to creating client-centred solutions. Nicholas attempts to craft legal solutions that match the goals and personal circumstances of each individual client.

Don’t hesitate to call Nicholas Robinson for a free criminal lawyer consultation at (306) 994-9522 and to learn about how a criminal defence lawyer can assist with your criminal charge.

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