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If I’ve Been Arrested, What Are My Rights?

If you have been arrested or detained for questioning by police, you have a right to seek advice from a lawyer. That right, as established in 1982 by Section 10 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, requires that you be informed of your right to counsel and your right to seek legal aid at the time of your arrest or detention. In fact, courts have concluded that Section 10 is violated if the police fail to provide that information even when the person who is arrested or detained decided not to see a lawyer.

The Right to a Lawyer Doesn’t Extend to Interrogations

Even though Canadian law guarantees your right to legal counsel, it also places limits on the scope of that guarantee. For instance, in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to counsel does not extend to police interrogations. That is, even though police have an obligation to inform arrestees and detainees of their right to legal counsel, that doesn’t mean that a defence lawyer needs to be present during the duration of the interview. Even though the court concluded that detainees have the right to legal counsel , the court’s ruling has significantly expanded police powers and eroded constitutional guarantees of detainees.

What if I Can’t Afford a Lawyer?

Even though they may interrogate you, police still must inform you of your right to legal counsel, including the availability of legal assistance from a government duty counsel through Legal Aid if you can’t afford a private lawyer. When police inform you of your right to legal counsel, they must do so immediately upon your arrest or detention. Once they do so, however, they have an obligation to provide you a reasonable opportunity to exercise that right. But once you obtain a lawyer, the law prescribes that any meetings between you and your lawyer while in detention must be in private. Also, no limits can be placed on future contacts between you and your lawyer.

DUI and the Right to a Lawyer

In the instance of DUI detentions, police must not only inform drivers of their right to legal counsel prior to administration of breath tests; they must make sure that they understand that right. If the driver expresses a desire to contact a lawyer immediately but does not have a phone, the police must make one available upon returning to the police station and must make sure that that phone conversation is private. If the police do not comply with these requirements, breath-test results might be inadmissible.

Get Help

Whatever the circumstances of the arrest or detention, the police can commit any number of missteps. Constitutional violations can occur. If you believe that may have happened in your case, you are advised to seek the services of an experienced criminal defence lawyer who can investigate and determine what effect this may have on you case and your defence.


Pull Quotes

  • “If you have been arrested or detained for questioning by police, you have a right to be represented by a lawyer.”
  • “Even though they may interrogate you, police still must inform you of your right to legal counsel.”
  • “Whatever the circumstances of the arrest or detention, the police can commit any number of missteps.”

The materials provided on this site are for information purposes only. These materials constitute general information relating to areas of law familiar to our firm lawyers. They do NOT constitute legal advice or other professional advice and you may not rely on the contents of this website as such.

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