How to Protect Yourself in a Police Investigation

Being approached, arrested and/or detained can be a frightening ordeal. Your very freedom may be under threat and what happens next may depend on what the police believe to be true. There are ways you can protect yourself, however, by being knowledgeable about your rights, consulting with a lawyer right away, seeking your release, and appearing in court as required. The lawyers of Banks, Gubbins and Andrews Criminal Law can make a difference in the outcome for you.


Understand Your Rights

If you are arrested or detained by the police or another person, you have a right to be informed of the reason why and the identity of the authority arresting or detaining you. A warrant should be shown to you if there is one. If there is no warrant, the police must have reasonable grounds that you have committed, are committing, or are about to commit an indictable offence. The police cannot arrest first and then determine after whether you had a connection with their investigation.

If the police do not identify themselves and provided a reason for your arrest or detention, then you are free to leave. If you are not explicitly placed under arrest, then you are also free to leave after answering basic identifying information if asked; you do not have an obligation to answer questions beyond that.

If you have been placed under arrest, the police have the right to search you for weapons and for any evidence relating to the offence. They can take can you to be locked-up and booked. They can obtain fingerprints and photographs if they charge you with an indictable or hybrid offence.

As the accused, you have the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be provided with a phone, phone book and quiet area to do so.


Consult With a Lawyer Before Talking With Police

It is best to speak with an experienced criminal lawyer about your legal rights and responsibilities before discussing allegations with police, even if you believe yourself to be completely innocent or there are no formal charges. The lawyer can tell you how to respond to formal demands made by police, such as a breath or blood sample and whether you should answer police questions or participate in a line-up. Although the officer must inform you that anything said can be used against you and you should know this from speaking to a lawyer, it’s not always wise to remain silent. We can discuss this further with you at your free initial consultation.

Despite popular belief, the decision to charge you belongs with the police officer and not a family member. Usually an arrest will result if allegations were made by another person and charges will result if the police believe the victim statements over yours, even if there is no other evidence besides the statements provided.


Seek Your Release

A police officer may release you on a “promise to appear” (in court at a later date) and an “undertaking to an officer,” which is a legally binding condition (e.g., not to return to the family home except in police presence if a one-time exception has been granted to obtain your property).

Or, the police can hold you for a bail hearing promptly (within 24 hours of the arrest) in front of a judge or justice of the peace to answer any charges that are being laid against you. The police can tell the judge or justice of the peace if they want you to be held in custody or release on certain conditions.

If the police do not want you to be released, then you may have the option of delaying your bail hearing and having a bailing hearing in front a Provincial Court judge instead of a hearing in front of a justice of the peace. The police will tell likely tell the judge or justice of the peace that you should be released, but on certain conditions, however, if you do not have a criminal record or outstanding charges. The police will also likely support your release if do not have a history of breaches of judicial orders, do not have a history of alcohol, drug problems or mental illness, and the alleged victim does not believe that you would breach a no contact order.

If a judge or justice of the peace makes the decision about your release, you may be ordered to remain in custody or be released with a “recognizance” or “undertaking.” You may be required to deposit money or property with the court to ensure that you will appear in court if released. If a cash bail is required, you will not be released until the bail money is deposited with the bail hearing office.
If the judge or justice of the peace denies your release, you have the right to appeal and a lawyer can help you with the appeal.


Be Sure to Attend Your First Court Appearance

If you have not obtained a lawyer by your first appearance notice and are not prepared to enter a plea, then you should still attend the court date and ask the judge to adjourn or remand your matter to another date. The judge will usually grant your request upon providing the reason for the adjournment.

If you have been charged with a summary offence, you will normally enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The court can deal with sentencing right away if the plea is guilty or set another date to deal with sentencing. The Crown will inform the judge if you have a record and provide the information available from the police about the offence. You or your lawyer will then be given a chance to speak to provide an explanation or information which will assist the court in deciding what your sentence should be.

With most indictable offences you may choose trial by Provincial Court judge, or by Queen’s Bench judge, or Queen’s Bench judge and jury. Depending on what election is made, either a trial date or a preliminary hearing will be set at a time that is convenient for you and your lawyer. On some indictable offences the trial must be in Provincial Court, so if you plead not guilty a trial date will be set.


Contact Banks, Gubbins & Andrews Criminal Law

If you are seeking an experienced criminal defence lawyer in Grand Prairie or surrounding areas, contact our Alberta criminal lawyers right away. We provide a free initial consultation and can determine how to manage your case for the best outcome. Our Grand Prairie criminal lawyers focus on impaired driving, narcotics offences, bail hearings, domestic and spousal violence, changing no contact orders in domestic cases, federal offences and Alberta and British Columbia Provincial Offences as legal practice areas. Contact us today at 780-830-0322.