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What are my rights if I'm detained or arrested?

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What are my rights if I'm detained or arrested?
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What are my rights if I'm detained or arrested?
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Reviewed: 
December 31, 2016
Answer

When you're being detained or arrested by the police, you have rights. These rights are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Your rights

You have the right to:

  • be told why you’re being detained or arrested
  • be searched in a reasonable manner
  • remain silent
  • talk to a lawyer, in most circumstances

Don't resist if the police try to arrest you. If you do, you could be charged with obstructing the police or assault with intent to resist arrest.

Being detained

You are being detained when the police stop you and give you reasons to believe you are legally obligated to stop and stay with them or comply with their requests or demands. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects you from being detained without a reason. If the police say you are not free to go, you’re being detained.

You will have to stay until the police allow you to leave. You should only be detained briefly. The police are only allowed to detain you if they have reasonable grounds to suspect you’ve been involved in a crime.

Being arrested

If the police decide to arrest you, they will formally take you into custody. You are not free to go and you will probably be handcuffed. If you’re being arrested, the police have to believe there are reasonable and probable grounds to charge you with a criminal offence.

What the police are allowed to do

The police have different powers depending on whether they have detained or arrested you.

The police are legally allowed to search you under certain conditions when you're being detained or arrested. But they must conduct their search in a reasonable manner.

When the police detain you, they can pat you with their hands to make sure you’re not a threat to them or the public. This is called a protective pat-down search. They aren’t allowed to empty your pockets, purse, or other type of bag. They are only allowed to frisk you to find and take away weapons.

When you're being arrested, the police can conduct a more thorough search than they would if you were being detained. Depending on the situation, they may be able to search you, anything you're carrying, and your car if that's where you were arrested.

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