Your rights as an individual are enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.These rights protect us from arbitrary and unreasonable exercises of police power, such as illegal searches or unlawful intrusions into our privacy. The Charter is crucial where an accused person is being prosecuted based on illegally obtained evidence. When police breach Charter rights, the illegally obtained evidence can be excluded from the trial, meaning that the prosecution is not allowed to rely on it to prove guilt.
You need to be aware that when you are speaking with the Police they are trying to find facts that they can use against you. Anything that you say can indeed be held against you in the court of law.
If you do not want to speak with a private lawyer, you can speak with the legal aid duty counsel, one is available 24 hours.
Below you can find explanations of the practical protections that our rights provide. This should not be taken as legal advice for any specific situation. When in doubt, contact your lawyer at 30 Queen Law Offices to determine what your options are.
How can I afford my Legal Fees?
Criminal cases can be extremely complex and difficult to predict making financing an added stress for you and your family. In order to assist you, we offer a number of payment options that can reduce the stress of financing. All of the lawyers at 30 Queen St require a retainer fee that covers the initial steps of the process and allows us to determine the legal avenues available to you.
Once your lawyer has determined the possible steps in your case, they will provide you with an estimate so that you are aware of all the costs involved in pursuing your case. Payment plans are available to fit each individual’s financial situation.
Do you take Legal Aid Cases?
The lawyers at 30 Queen Law Offices believe that everyone, regardless of financial situation, deserves an excellent defense to their criminal charges. For that reason, we will take on your case if you qualify for Legal Aid funding. Legal Aid eligibility is based on gross income and family size. Additional considerations include assets and debts.
To see if you qualify for Legal Aid, please visit Legal Aid Ontario. (http://www.legalaid.on.ca/
Can a Police Officer just come to my door?
Any person, including a police officer, has your implied consent to walk onto your property for the purpose of communicating to you at your front door. If the police have a legitimate reason for communicating with you, such as responding to a call or seeking information for an investigation, then there is nothing wrong with this.
You have no obligation to answer the door when the police come knocking. There is also no obligation to speak to the police at your door, and you can end any conversation with them whenever you choose.
Can the Police Enter my Home when they want?
The police or other law enforcement authorities can only lawfully enter your home under certain circumstances – otherwise they are the same as any trespasser. The home is seen under our law as the most private place, but there are exceptions to your protection against police intrusion.
What happens if I invite the Police into my Home?
The police may come to your door to speak with you and in the process ask if they can come inside. You do not have to let them enter, but they are allowed to under law if you allow it. If you are not sure whether to grant this permission, contact your lawyer before making this decision.
Giving the police permission to enter your home is not the same as giving them permission to search your home, but police may ask to do this as well and you may grant it.
If you give the police permission to search your home, then they can do so without a warrant. You should consult a lawyer for legal advice before making this decision as a search of your home by police is a serious intrusion of your constitutionally protected privacy interests.
What if the Police have a Search Warrant?
A search warrant is a judicial authorization to enter and search a place for evidence of a crime. They are often used for the search and seizure of illegal drugs or firearms, but may be related to a search for evidence of any crime. It may authorize the police to enter at night, and it may authorize the police to use force in making their entry.
Police can detain the people found in the home while the search is being conducted, and may make arrests or lay charges based on what is found. The police may also seize any number of items found during a search in pursuit of their investigation. The validity of search warrants can be challenged later in court, and issues related to the release of items that are seized can also be dealt with later. Anything that is seized as evidence will likely be held at least until the related charges are over.
Are there any exceptions to the above?
Police officers may be entitled to enter your home to pursue a fleeing suspect, even if the suspect is entering a home that is not his own. Or they may have grounds to believe that entering a home is necessary to prevent the destruction of evidence of a serious crime. Some examples would include a “Hot Pursuit”, which may include a drunk driver pursued by police who pulls into his driveway and runs into his home. Destuction of evidence could include flushing drugs down the toilet or burning or destroying DNA evidence related to a sexual assault or a murder.
Other emergencies may justify a warrantless entry by the police, such as responding to a distress call made over 911, an ongoing domestic assault, or some other circumstance where police reasonably believe that someone’s life or safety is in danger.
Can the Police look through my Backyard or Garbage?
Your gated backyard is also a private place, and police must obtain a warrant to search it. However, the trash that you leave on your driveway is not private. Once you leave trash out to be collected, you give up your privacy in the contents, meaning that police are as free as the garbage man to pick it up and take a look inside.
Whatever the case, contacting a lawyer directly for legal advice at the earliest opportunity is the best way to know what your rights are in protecting the privacy of your home.
Can the Police just pull me over while driving for no reason?
The police are legally able to investigate certain issues in almost all driving situations. Unlike other situations, the police do not need grounds to believe that your licence, insurance or registration documents are not up to date in order to pull you over to investigate these issues. The rationale for this is that driving is not a right, but a privilege, and the power for a stop of this kind comes from the Highway Traffic Act.
These issues include:
- Whether or not the driver of the vehicle is licensed to drive
- Whether or not the motor vehicle is properly insured and registered
- Whether or not the vehicle is in good working order.
Unlike other situations, the police do not need grounds to believe that your licence, insurance or registration documents are not up to date in order to pull you over to investigate these issues. The rationale for this is that driving is not a right, but a privilege, and the power for a stop of this kind comes from the Highway Traffic Act.
What can the Police do when I am pulled over?
If you are pulled over, the Police have the right to request proof of licensing, insurance, registration and the safety of your car. They DO NOT have the right for a wholesale search of your car or an investigation into the identity of your passengers without a reasonable suspicion or belief that they are involved in a criminal offence.
If the police are asking or demanding that you let them search your car, ask why you are being stopped and then tell them that you want to call your lawyer right away before you make any decision or give any permission. This is the best way to ensure that your rights are protected.
Can the Police detain me on the street for no reason?
The police are only permitted to detain you when they have reasonable grounds to believe, or suspect, that you are engaged in criminal activity. If the police do not have the required grounds the detention is illegal and any evidence they obtain can be excluded at trial.
Simply put, a detention occurs when the police's actions cause you to reasonably believe that you are not free to walk away. You are protected from arbitrary detentions by Section 9. A “detention” occurs when the police through words, or actions, force you to stop and remain with them. An obvious example of a detention is an arrest; the police by force ensure that you remain in their custody. However, a detention need not be so obvious; the police could simply say “stop” or “don’t move” and a detention would occur. Further, even less intrusive police conduct can cause a detention to occur such as a group of police officers surrounding you, an officer blocking your path in an intimidating manner; in these situations the police conduct can cause you to reasonably believe that you are not free to leave and these situations amount to “detentions” under the law.
I have been arrested, what can I do?
If you are stopped or arrested, it is very important that you remain calm and avoid conflict with the police. Keep control of your words, body language and emotions so that the situation does not escalate.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is part of the Canadian Constitution, gives you certain rights in the event of arrest or detention.
If you are arrested or detained you must be:
- Told why you have been arrested or detained
- Told immediately that you have the right to a lawyer
- Told about Legal Aid, and your right to free legal advice
- Allowed to speak with your lawyer, in private, as soon as possible if you ask to do so
If you are under the age of 18, you should also be allowed to contact your parents or guardian and to have them with you when you speak with the police, if you want them there. You do not have to choose between calling your parents or guardian and calling your lawyer. You can do both.
If you ask to speak with a lawyer, the police should stop questioning you. And if you have been arrested, the police should give you the 24-hour, toll-free number to get free legal advice from duty counsel. This is the lawyer provided by Legal Aid Ontario.
Once you have spoken with your lawyer, the police can continue to ask questions. However, you have the right to remain silent and do not have to answer, not matter how many times they ask.
Below you will find explanations for the steps involved in most criminal cases:
An accused person has the right to consult with legal counsel before making any statements to the police. It is CRUCIAL that you take advantage of the right to receive timely and effective advice upon arrest. Lawyers working out of 30 Queen Law Offices are available 24 Hours a day to assist you in this regard.
Once, arrested an accused will either be released by police, or, detained in custody overnight. If detained, an accused will be brought before a Justice of the Peace within 24 hours. You can then either be released with the consent of the crown prosecutor, or proceed to a bail hearing to determine whether you will be released.
The first appearance in court is usually administrative in nature and they are normally used only to exchange information and to set dates for trial, or resolution. You will NOT be given an opportunity to present your defence in these first appearance courts. These courts allow you and your lawyer to request and receive disclosure, set up resolution meetings with the crown and address other administrative issues, or the resolution of your legal case.
Trial and Resolution Court
Once your lawyer has completed all of the administrative steps necessary for your case, your matter can be moved into Trial Court or Resolution Court, where your case will be heard and fully resolved. The length of these proceedings can vary depending on the type of charges that you face.
There is evidence against me – Shouldn’t I plead guilty?
Although the police and the Crown Attorney may have a strong case against you, do not simply plead guilty. The consequences of pleading guilty include a lifetime criminal record and the possibility of: jail time, fines, inability to travel to the United States, etc. Those who have been charged with Drinking and Driving and plead guilty not only face the loss of their licence and a minimum of $1000 fine, but can see a dramatic increase in their insurance rates. Meaning that the long term costs in insurance can be significantly higher than the legal costs involved in pleading not guilty!
While the situation may appear black and white to you, with the help and advice of legal counsel, you may find opportunities that you were not initially aware of. For example, there may have been irregularities in the process of detention, arrest or questioning or the Crown may not be able to include incriminating evidence. Without a complete awareness of all of the facts, along with the advice of your lawyer, you should not plead guilty and should not admit guilt to the police by way of a statement.