Do I have to answer police questions when I’m detained or arrested?

2. Ask to talk to a lawyer

What to say

If you’ve been or , ask to talk to a lawyer right away.

Just say, “I want to talk to a lawyer.” The police should stop questioning you as soon as you ask for a lawyer. You don’t have to say anything else. If the police keep asking questions, don’t say anything. Ask again to talk to a lawyer.

If you do not speak or understand English, tell the police so that they can take steps to make sure that legal advice is given through an interpreter or a lawyer who speaks your language.

You are also allowed to call someone who is not a lawyer if the purpose of the phone call is to get help to find a lawyer.

Your rights

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects your right to talk to a lawyer without delay when you’re detained or arrested.

The police must tell you that you have this right. If you ask, they must allow you to contact a lawyer. You must tell the police that you want to talk to a lawyer and you must be allowed to speak to the lawyer in private. You must be allowed some time to try and reach the lawyer you want to talk to.    

If you still do not understand your rights after talking to a lawyer you should clearly tell the police. The police may have a duty to give you the opportunity to talk to another lawyer.

The rights related to talking to a lawyer are called the right to counsel. Always talk to a lawyer before you talk to the police.

Services while in custody

If you need to talk to a lawyer while you’re in , the police must tell you about the Brydges duty counsel service. This is a service provided by Legal Aid Ontario. It gives free legal advice to anyone in Ontario who is detained or arrested. It is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The service is available in English, French, and any other language through an interpreter.

Tell the police officer that you want to talk to if you don’t have your own criminal lawyer. The officer should call the hotline for you and let you speak with duty counsel in private. If duty counsel is not available, the officer can leave a message and duty counsel should call you back within 30 minutes.

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