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Protecting your rights when the police detain or arrest you

When Ontario police detain you, it can be a scary time. You may feel confused and uncertain, as if you have lost control of the situation. In fact, you may very well lose control of the situation if you are unfamiliar with your civil rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These rights place limits on the actions of law enforcement when dealing with citizens who are suspected of wrongdoing. 

It is common for people who do not understand their rights to believe they must comply with everything the police tell them to do during an arrest or detainment. This is not true. If members of law enforcement violate your rights, the court may rule against admitting any evidence they obtain as a result.

The law limits the actions of the police

If you are under arrest, the police will take you into custody and file charges against you. When the police detain you, they have not charged you with a crime, but they suspect your involvement in wrongdoing. The officers must also tell you why they are holding you. In either case, you may not leave the scene, so if you are uncertain if you are detained or under arrest, it is best to ask the officer.

Depending on whether you are detained or arrested, the liberties police may take are different. For example, if the police detain you, they may only pat you down for security reasons. If you are under arrest, they may search you thoroughly, as well as any bag or purse you are carrying, and your vehicle. The search must be reasonable, and the officers may not destroy your property unnecessarily.

Do yourself a favour

Your behaviour when police detain or arrest you can make a difference in the outcome of your situation. Remaining quiet and respectful is always a good decision. During the time that law enforcement has you detained, these actions are recommended:

  • Ask why the police have stopped you.
  • Do not run from the police or resist them even if you think the arrest is unlawful.
  • Do not assault an officer or prevent him or her from performing a legal search even if the police use unreasonable methods.
  • Request the presence of a lawyer immediately.
  • Politely refuse to answer questions or make statements until you have received the counsel of a lawyer.

If it seems the police are acting outside their boundaries, the time and place of your arrest is not the appropriate venue to seek justice. You can rely on the advocacy of a skilled and experienced professional. Allow your lawyer to fight the battle for you.

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Erskine Law
5 Church Street East
Brampton, Ontario L6V 1E8

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