If you have never been arrested, your first time can be stressful. Even if you have been arrested before, the best way to minimize your stress and to protect yourself is to review the information in this article and speak to a lawyer.
What should I do if I’m arrested in Alberta?
If you are arrested for a criminal offence, it is important to stay calm, stay quiet, remember your rights, and talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.
What are my rights?
- You have a right to be told why you are under arrest.
- Anything you say can be used against you, so do not say anything to police or answer any of their questions. However, you must tell the police your name, address, and date of birth.
- You may be searched after you are arrested. However, it is important that you do not consent to any searches.
- Exercise your right to speak with a lawyer. Other than identifying yourself, do not say anything else until you have spoken to a lawyer.
If you are arrested in Alberta, it will usually be by a peace officer, such as a police officer, community peace officer (i.e. a sheriff) or a fish and wildlife officer.
What could happen if I resist or argue with the arresting officer?
It’s important to stay calm. You may be arrested on the street, in your car, at your home, or anywhere else. When you are approached by an officer and told that you are under arrest, your first instinct might be to panic, run or argue. It is important that you do not. If the officer believes that you are not following their instructions, the situation could escalate. This could result in the officer using force to arrest you or you may be charged with resisting arrest or obstructing the officer. Remember, your fight is in the courtroom, not at the scene of your arrest.
What should I say to the police when I’m arrested? Can I talk my way out of it?
Do not make the mistake of thinking you can talk your way out of an arrest. All too often, people try to talk their way out of an arrest and end up making the situation worse than it already is. Anything you say can be used by the officer to justify further investigation or potentially additional charges. Your statements can also be used against you at trial.
Peace officers will often ask you questions, and they may be persistent. The only information you are required to provide is your identification.
After you are arrested, you may think the investigation is over and engage the officer in what you think is casual conversation only to find out that information is now part of the case against you. Remember, the investigation against you does not end after you are arrested. It is best to assume that everything you say will make things worse: stay quiet and remember your rights.
When are my rights triggered?
If you are detained or placed under arrest, your legal rights are immediately triggered.
Do I have the same rights as others?
Everyone is entitled to the same rights contained in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Can peace officers search me?
When you are placed under arrest, peace officers have the power to search you for evidence and for safety purposes. Depending on the circumstances, they may have the power to search your immediate area or your property. It is important to never agree or give permission to an officer to search something.
If the peace officer has a warrant to search, they are required to show it to you. However, even if you feel the officer does not have justification to search you or your property, it is important that you do not physically interfere with the officer. Once again: your fight is in the courtroom.
Do I have to let a peace officer into my home without a warrant?
No, do not let an officer into your home without a warrant.
Can a peace officer search my vehicle without a warrant?
No, do not give them permission to search your vehicle. A warrant is usually required to search a vehicle.
Can a police officer seize or search my digital devices?
Do not give them the password to any of your digital devices until you have had an opportunity to speak to a lawyer. A warrant is usually required to search a digital device.
What are my rights when I get arrested?
- You have the right to be free from unreasonable search or seizure.
- You have the right to be free from arbitrary detention. As soon as you are no longer free to leave, you are detained. Your detention is what triggers your right to be informed of the reason for your detention and your right to counsel. If you are unsure, ask the officer if you are free to leave.
- You have the right to be informed of the reason for your arrest as soon as possible. This information can only be delayed if there are exigent or dangerous circumstances.
- Finally, you have the right to counsel. This right has two components. First, you have the right to be informed of your right to counsel. The peace officer is required to tell you about your right to counsel and ask if you wish to speak counsel. You should always tell the officer that you wish to speak to a lawyer. Second, once you have told the officer you wish to speak to a lawyer, the officer is required to give you an opportunity to speak to a lawyer before they ask you any more questions.
Talk to a lawyer
As indicated above, once you have told the officer you wish to speak to a lawyer, the officer is required to give you an opportunity to do so. Even if you are not told by the officer that you have a right to a lawyer, you should still tell the officer that you wish to speak to a lawyer.
The peace officer will usually provide you an opportunity to speak to a lawyer in a private room at a nearby police detachment. In some circumstances, they may allow you to call a lawyer using your own cell phone at the scene of the arrest. However, this is unusual, and the arresting officer is not required to allow you to use your own cell phone.
If you have a lawyer already but do not know their phone number, tell the arresting officer and they will assist you. If you do not have a lawyer, duty counsel is available to provide you free legal advice. Usually, the number for duty counsel and a phone book will be in the telephone room at the police detachment. If this information is not available or you cannot find it, tell the arresting officer.
It is important to remember that you must be diligent and persistent in asserting your right to speak with a lawyer. If your lawyer does not pick up, keep trying or consider calling a different lawyer or duty counsel. Do not leave the telephone room until you have at least spoken to duty counsel.