Police Powers: Stops and Searches
What are my rights if I am arrested or detained?
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is part of the Canadian Constitution, sets out your rights.
If you are arrested or detained, you must be:
- told why you have been arrested or detained, and why the police are investigating you,
- told immediately that you have the right to a lawyer,
- told about Legal Aid and your right to free legal advice, and
- allowed to speak, in private, to a lawyer of your choice, as soon as possible, if you ask to do so.
The police do not have to give you an opportunity to speak to a lawyer unless you say that you want to. And if you speak to a lawyer, the police can assume that you got the legal advice you needed. So if you did not understand what the lawyer told you or you are not satisfied with the advice you got, tell the police that you want to:
- speak to the lawyer again, or
- speak to another lawyer.
If you are under 18
If you are under the age of 18, the police have to treat you differently than an adult. This applies if you are arrested or detained or if they suspect that you have committed a crime.
The police should tell you that:
- you do not have to say anything,
- anything you say may be used as evidence against you,
- you have the right to speak to a lawyer,
- you have the right to contact your parents or guardian, and
- you have the right to have your parents or guardian and a lawyer with you, if you want them there, when the police question you.
You do not have to choose between calling your parents or guardian and calling a lawyer. You can do both. And, if you contact them, you can have your parents or guardian and a lawyer with you when the police question you.
If you ask to speak to a lawyer
The police should stop questioning you if:
- you ask to speak to a lawyer, and
- you make a reasonable effort to contact and speak to a lawyer.
If you have been arrested or detained, the police should give you the 24-hour, toll-free number to get free legal advice from duty counsel. This is a lawyer provided by Legal Aid Ontario.
After you speak to a lawyer, the police may continue to ask you questions. Even if you say that you do not want to answer, they can continue to ask. However, you have the right to remain silent and do not have to answer.
Unless you are under 18, the police do not have to let you have a lawyer with you while they question you. If you have spoken to a lawyer, the police do not usually have to let you speak to a lawyer again during the same interview. But they might have to let you do this if something has changed so that you need to get legal advice again. For example, this could happen if the police start to question you about a different and more serious crime.