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

1. Ask why you’re being detained or arrested

Your rights

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects your right to be told why you’re being or .

What to do if you’re being detained

If you’re unsure if you’re being detained, you can tell the police that you don’t wish to talk to them. Ask, “Am I free to leave?” If the police say you can go, simply walk away.

If the police say you are not free to go, you’re being detained and they must tell you why.

The police are legally allowed to you if they have to suspect you’ve been involved in a crime. Having reasonable grounds is more than having a hunch based on the facts. The officer must believe that any reasonable person in the officer’s position would think there are reasons to suspect you were involved in a crime.

If you have been detained but you think the police don’t have reasonable grounds to suspect you’ve been involved in a crime or they have not clearly explained why you’re being detained you should not try to leave. If you have these concerns you should discuss them with a lawyer later on.

What to do if you’re being arrested

If you’re unsure if you’re being arrested, ask. Say politely, “Am I under arrest?” If the police say that you are, ask them why.

The police can arrest you if they:

  • see you doing a crime and it is in the public interest to arrest you
  • have reasonable grounds to believe you committed, or are about to commit, an which is a more serious crime
  • have a for your arrest
  • have reasonable grounds to believe a warrant exists for your arrest

If the police are going to arrest you without a warrant for a they must believe it’s in the public’s best interest to:

  • find out who you are
  • stop you from damaging or hiding
  • stop a crime

If the police don’t have a warrant, they are only allowed to arrest you for a minor crime if they:

  • see you committing the , and
  • they have reasonable grounds to believe it’s in the public’s best interest to arrest you.

You might be charged without being arrested if you tell the truth about who you are and the police believe:

  • you will not destroy evidence
  • you will not repeat the offence
  • you will go to court as required

If the crime is more serious, you will be arrested.

If you’ve been detained or arrested, you don’t have to answer any questions the police ask you. You have the right to remain silent.

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