Monthly Archives: June 2013

Only One Phone Call

American television often portrays an accused person asking for their lawyer to be present during a police interview. But what are our rights as Canadians when arrested and interviewed by the police?

In Canada, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides us with our rights. You do not have the right to have their lawyer present when they are speaking to police. Instead, you have a right to a phone call to a criminal defence lawyer.

What is this right to speak to a lawyer? When an individual is accused of a crime, she is advised that they have the right to speak to a lawyer or to Duty Counsel. If the individual chooses to speak to a lawyer, they are provided with a list of lawyers and that person must choose one. That person chooses a lawyer based off a list of names, without knowing anything about that person. The lawyer provides advice regarding the charges and what to do next, and the individual is then brought to the interview room and asked questions by the police.

The accused only has the right to contact the lawyer once, with one phone call, before the interview. However, if there is a change in jeopardy (for example the police decide to charge the accused with more offences), she will have the right to speak to a lawyer again.

The first contact with a lawyer at the police station does not require the accused to hire that lawyer. In fact, it is best to do research on your lawyer before you hire someone.

It is important to have trust and faith in your lawyer. Your lawyer will be there to help you navigate the criminal justice system. Your lawyer should help you understand what the charges are, understand what the next steps for you will be, explain what is happening and represent your interests. Although your lawyer knows the law and the processes, they should not tell you what to do: your lawyer should help you make the right decision for you, by providing you with the pros and cons, and results of each option.