You Have a Right to Counsel Upon Arrest, and the Police Need to Inform You of That Right.

If you’ve been arrested and taken into custody, your mind is probably swimming in a sea of confusion, worry, and fear. With thoughts about the practical implications of your situation – how to get out of jail, how will this affect my career, family, and future – likely being foremost in your mind, clear thinking about your legal rights, what they are, how to exercise them, and how to make sure they are not violated may be a tall order.

That’s why you have a fundamental and immediate right to a criminal defence lawyer and that is why you need to exercise that right as soon as possible.

Your right to seek advice from a lawyer upon arrest was confirmed in 1982 by Section 10 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that “Everyone has the right on arrest or detention… to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right.”

As stated in Section 10, your right to counsel includes a responsibility on the part of police to advise you of that right 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 contact a lawyer.

When police inform you of your right to legal counsel, they must do so immediately upon your arrest or detention. They then have an obligation to provide you a reasonable opportunity to exercise that right. Upon obtaining 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.

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. The police can continue questioning you even after you’ve indicated that you intend to exercise your right to seek counsel.

Exercise Your Right to Counsel

Whatever the circumstances of the arrest or detention, the police can commit any number of errors or engage in overreach or misconduct that could lead to evidence being excluded because police violated your rights. Having a lawyer by your side immediately after your arrest can prevent you from making any missteps that may harm your defence as well as ensure that the police respect your rights.

Ottawa Criminal Defence Firm Engel & Associates Defends Against Even The Most Complicated Charges

Criminal lawyers Bruce Engel and Elena Davies have represented individuals and businesses charged with hundreds of different offences throughout Canada for more than two decades. From the start of a criminal investigation to the close of a trial, we will take a balanced and forceful approach to your defence. We have the experience and know-how to effectively navigate the constantly changing justice system in Canada.


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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