Police officers in Canada are intended to enforce the laws, keep the peace, and arrest those who have committed crimes. However, police do not have unlimited power and authority.
This is because the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other laws provide numerous rights to Canadians. Too often, police officers overstep their bounds and may violate your rights. If you are under arrest, you need to speak with a skilled criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible, especially if you suspect your rights may have been violated.
When Police Stop You
Police can lawfully stop individuals in three situations:
- You are driving
- They see you commit a crime
- They suspect you have committed a crime
When you are stopped, you generally have no obligation to answer questions by the police. Police also cannot detain you indefinitely without informing you why. If police say you are not free to go, ask them why. If they refuse to tell you - or have no reason - the detention is likely in violation of your rights.
When Police Search You or Your Vehicle
Police cannot randomly search any person or vehicle whenever they want. Generally, officers can only search your person when you consent to a search or when you are under arrest. There are certain exceptions, however, including when police have reason to believe you have a weapon used in a crime, drugs, or illegal alcohol and they think you will destroy the evidence if they take the time to get a search warrant. Otherwise, police should never search you due to your right against unreasonable searches. When police pull you over, they do not automatically have the right to search through your vehicle. They can look through the windows of your vehicle, including with a flashlight, and they can see anything that is in plain sight. However, they can only search your car more thoroughly if you consent or if they have probable cause to believe there is evidence of a crime, and that you could destroy the evidence while they get a warrant.
When You Are Under Arrest
If you are detained but not yet arrested, police can conduct a basic “pat-down” just to see if you have any weapons on you, though they cannot yet search you without consent until you are under arrest. Even then, a search must be based on safety concerns or to prevent the destruction of evidence. You also have the following rights upon an arrest:
- To be informed of why you were arrested
- To remain silent and not answer police questions
- To speak to a lawyer and to have access to a telephone to do so
If you are not properly informed of these rights and police question you anyway, it is in violation of your rights.
Find Out How Our Calgary Criminal Defence Lawyers Can Help You
Violations of your rights can help defend against any subsequent criminal charges. At Bourdon Defence, our criminal defence lawyers will closely examine police conduct to determine whether any evidence was obtained illegally or whether your arrest was illegal. Call 403-474-4143 or contact us online today if you have been arrested.