If you have been arrested in Canada, the first thing you should think about is calling a lawyer. Even if you are convinced that the police have a flimsy case against you and that you will be let go, the presence of a lawyer can make sure that the police follow all proper procedures and respect your rights. The information below will provide you with details on what happens when you get arrested and what you should do next.
How Do I Know if I Have Been Arrested?
It's usually easy to tell whether you are being detained by the police or arrested. Being detained means that the police officer might ask you a few questions, but you are free to go whenever you need. If you have violated the law in some way, the officer might give you a warning or write you a ticket, but will not force you to come into the station. By comparison, getting arrested means that you are not free to go. If you are in a vehicle, the police officer will probably have you step out of the vehicle and escort you to the station. In most cases, a police officer puts you in handcuffs when you are under arrest. If this happens, don't panic. Just be prepared to contact a lawyer at your earliest opportunity.
What are My Rights if Arrested?
When a police officer arrests you, they are obligated to take certain steps. They must tell you why you are being arrested. They have the right to search you, but only in a reasonable manner. If you feel threatened or exploited during the search process, or if you think that the police officer is going beyond what is reasonable, you can voice your objection and mention the matter to your lawyer. The police officer cannot compel you to speak about any alleged crime without the presence of a lawyer. In fact, it is usually a good idea not to answer questions from the police without a lawyer present. Even though the police can't compel you to speak, incriminating things you say can become evidence against you if the case goes to court.
What if a Cop Doesn't Read You Your Rights?
The police procedures you see on TV and in movies are loosely based on the laws of the United States, but even so there are certain similarities with reality. One of those similarities is that police are supposed to inform you of your rights if they arrest or detain you. This doesn't mean that you are automatically free to go if the police officer fails to read you your rights—it is a procedural violation, but not one that will necessarily cause a criminal case to fall apart. If a cop does not inform you of your rights, you should ask if you are free to go and, if not, request the reason why you are being detained or arrested. A police officer who fails to give you a reason or who doesn't read your rights at this point is making a serious procedural error. Be sure to tell your lawyer about this, as it could show bias during the arrest process and calls into question the fairness of your arrest when the case goes to court.
Do You Have to Speak to Police?
You do not have to talk to police or answer their questions, but in certain cases you might feel like you should. If you have not yet been arrested, the police might ask you some clarifying questions about your behavior. There's nothing explicitly wrong with answering these questions, but you should avoid doing so if you feel the answers might incriminate you in some way or lead to charges against you. Regardless of whether you exercise your right not to speak with the police, you should make sure to be polite throughout the encounter. If you are belligerent or aggressive toward the police officer, things may get worse and a simple warning could turn into a full-fledged arrest.
Should You Talk to the Police Without a Lawyer?
There's no law saying that you can't talk to the police without a lawyer present, but it is rarely a good idea to do so. When it comes to matters of public record, such as your name, there's nothing wrong with presenting facts to the police. Beyond that, however, the only thing you accomplish when you talk to the police without a lawyer present is to give them information that a prosecuting lawyer can later use to build a case against you. Talking to the police without a lawyer is rarely beneficial, even if you think doing so might somehow clear your name. Remember that anything you want to say at the moment of your arrest can also be said with a lawyer present who can provide advice and take notes about your interaction with the authorities.
Can I Call a Lawyer for Free?
The police are obligated to let you call a lawyer. In fact, if they fail to inform you of your right to call a lawyer, they stand in violation of proper procedure. This could lead to your case being more difficult to prosecute when it goes to court, or it could even lead to the matter getting dismissed entirely. If you don't have your own lawyer, you should also to speak with one anyway. The police will then put you in touch with duty counsel, which is a lawyer who defends those who either don't have or can't afford their own criminal lawyer. You should receive a chance to speak with a lawyer, either your own or one provided by the duty counsel line, in private. If the police try to put you in touch with duty counsel but nobody responds, they will leave a message and you should get a call back within 30 minutes. Wait until you speak with a lawyer before answering questions from the police.
Can You be Charged with a Crime Without Knowing?
By law, police are obligated to tell you if you have been charged with a crime. However, not every criminal charge comes with an arrest. If a police officer arrests or detains you without telling you the reason why, you should request a reason. If the officer confirms that you are under arrest, it's time to reach out to a lawyer. If you have a run-in with the police and don't get arrested, however, that doesn't mean that you are free of any charges. Police might give you an appearance notice or ask you to formally promise to appear in court to face a criminal charge. If you are unsure of your standing, ask for clarification from a lawyer who can spell out whether you are being charged and what the charges, if any, are.
Can Police Talk to You After You Ask for a Lawyer?
The right to remain silent and avoid incriminating yourself is one of the basic rights allowed to all people under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That does not, however, mean that police officers have to stop asking you questions if you notify them that you intend to execute that right. As long as they don't violate any specific laws, police can ask you anything they would like and make any statements on the record that they wish. Anything you tell them can be used as evidence in a case against you. If police ask you questions without a lawyer present, you should tell them that you do not wish to give a statement or answer questions without a lawyer present. Repeat this as often as you need if they continue to try to get information out of you.
How Can I Get a Lawyer with No Money?
Everybody has a right to a proper defence in the court of law. To make sure that this happens, Canada has a pro bono committee that helps people who cannot afford a lawyer of their own. In addition, different provinces may have additional resources. For example, Ontario has special services targeted toward low income individuals, representatives of charitable organizations, and children. If you find yourself in legal trouble and don't think you can afford a lawyer, contact your province's legal aid line for assistance. Another option could be to contact a lawyer who offers free consultations. This can give you some basic advice about your case and give you an idea as to how much legal representation will cost you.
What Should I Look for in a Lawyer?
The difference between a good lawyer and a serviceable one might be the difference between going free and serving a jail sentence. If you have the option to choose a lawyer for your criminal defence, you should target somebody who has years of experience in your area defending cases just like yours. It helps to have some experience with the criminal lawyer ahead of time, either through a previous case or a consultation. If you have the opportunity to check online reviews about a lawyer, that helps to give you a feel for what clients experienced when they received representation from that particular individual. In all regards, the more knowledge you have going into a professional relationship with a lawyer, the better.
If you find yourself detained or arrested by a police officer, your next actions are crucial. Make sure not to make things worse on yourself by saying something to the police without proper representation. Most importantly, contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible to make sure that your rights are properly protected.