What happens if I am arrested?
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What happens if I am arrested?
What happens when you are arrested depends on the situation, but there are some things that commonly occur:
- You probably will be or have already been charged with a criminal offence. Being arrested and being charged are two different things. You are arrested if you are physically “seized” or touched by a police officer in order to detain you because the police have reasonable grounds to believe you committed a specific criminal offence and have charged or expect to charge you. You are charged when an “information” is sworn under oath before a judge or justice of the peace. (For more information about the difference between being charged and being arrested, see my FAQ on that topic.)
- The police will read you your Charter rights, including your right to speak with a lawyer without delay, and caution that you are being arrested for specific offence(s), and that anything you say can and will be used against you. This should happen right away, or as soon as reasonably possible in the circumstances. It will likely be done by a police officer who is reading a standard wording of the Charter and caution from their phone or a card.
- If you are arrested outside of a police station, then you will either be released on an appearance notice or undertaking with conditions, or transported by police to a police station for arrest processing. If you are released on an appearance notice or undertaking, you will be given dates and times on which you must attend for identification (fingerprinting and photographs) and court (the first court appearance for your matter). (For an explanation on the different kinds of release, see my FAQs about bail and release.)
- You may be handcuffed and searched, especially if you are being taken in for processing. The police may take items on your person (e.g., your cell phone and keys from your pocket, or weapons, drugs, and cash from your backpack) and place them in plastic bags in the police vehicle. Depending on the situation, the items may be kept as evidence and eventually destroyed or forfeited to the government or rightful owner, or held as your personal belongings and given back to you once you are released.
- Once you arrive for processing, you will be searched again, and any personal items, belts, or drawstrings in your clothing will be removed. You may also be photographed and have your fingerprints taken.
- After you are processed but before you are interviewed, the police may re-read you your Charter rights and caution you again, and you should be given your opportunity to speak with a lawyer in private about your matter, if you have not already had that opportunity. This usually means a phone call in a room specifically designed for this purpose and access to a phone number for a free legal aid lawyer and a phone book.
- Once you have spoken with a lawyer, the police will likely interview you, which involves them asking you all kinds of questions about what happened. You should not answer these questions – or any questions other than your name, birthdate, and address – unless the lawyer you just spoke with advised you to do so. (For more information about police interviews, see my FAQs on that topic.)
- Once you have been processed and interviewed, the police will either “unarrest” you and release you without charges or conditions (this is rare), release you on an appearance notice or an undertaking with conditions, or take you to remand where they will hold you in custody (jail) until you have a bail hearing. You should be given an opportunity for a bail hearing within 24 hours. If you are being kept in jail pending a bail hearing, you should contact a lawyer to assist you with the bail hearing as soon as possible. That said, there should be a free lawyer (“duty counsel”) there to assist you with your bail hearing. If you are granted bail, you will be released, provided you meet and follow certain conditions. If you are not granted bail, you will be kept in jail until the charge against you is dealt with (i.e., until you are convicted at trial and sentenced, plead guilty and are sentenced, or have the charge against you dropped). You may also be able to apply at the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta for bail review, which is like an appeal of the decision to not grant you bail. (For more information on bail hearings and release, see my FAQs on that topic.)
- Once you have been charged, your matter will go into the court system, meaning that you will have a first court date scheduled for a time in the near future, which you or your lawyer must attend, and that you will keep having court dates until your matter is resolved. (For information on what to expect during the criminal charge process, see my FAQ on that topic.)
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