If you’re detained, arrested, or facing criminal charges, it’s helpful to know what to expect in terms of the process. This can be a profoundly overwhelming and stressful time, so having a clear understanding of the steps involved can help ease some of the anxiety. Today, we will share a rundown of what you might expect to happen if you’re facing detention, arrest, and criminal charges in Canada.
Before exploring detention, arrest, and criminal charges in Canada in greater detail, here is a brief overview of what these terms mean:
- Detention: Detention is when the police hold you for questioning, although you are not formally under arrest. You are not free to leave and may be handcuffed.
- Arrest: Arrest is when the police take you into custody. This usually happens after they have charged you with a crime.
- Criminal charges: Criminal charges formally accuse someone of committing a criminal offence.
Now, here’s a closer look at Canada’s detention, arrest, and criminal charges processes.
Learn more about these processes and other components of a Canadian criminal trial here.
If police detain you, they have the right to question you. However, you are not under arrest and are not required to answer any questions. You can ask to speak to a lawyer at any time.
The police may detain you if they:
- Suspect you have committed a crime
- Have reasonable grounds to believe that detaining you is necessary to prevent you from committing a crime
- Need to identify you
- Need to obtain or preserve evidence
- Believe that detaining you is necessary in order to ensure public safety
An arrest occurs when the police have reasonable grounds to believe that you have committed an offence. You will be taken into custody and brought before a judge, usually within 24 hours of your arrest. The judge will determine whether or not there is enough evidence to keep you in custody pending trial.
After you’ve been arrested, you will be taken to a police station where you will be read your rights and cautioned. You will then be fingerprinted and photographed. The police will also search you and any personal belongings you have with you.
You will then be placed in a cell and given the opportunity to speak to a lawyer. However, it’s imperative to note that anything you say to the police can be used against you in court. Therefore, exercising your right to remain silent until you have legal counsel present is crucial.
Once you have spoken to a lawyer, the police may question you further. If they do, anything you say can still be used against you in court. So, once again, it’s helpful to remain silent and let your lawyer do the talking.
After you’ve been arrested, the police will decide whether or not to charge you. If they do charge you, you will be given a date to appear in court.
In the meantime, you might be let out on bail, or you could remain in custody. Bail is an agreement between you and the court that allows you to be released from custody until your next court date. Your bail conditions will be set by the judge and must be followed. If you fail to follow your bail conditions, you could be arrested and put back in jail.
If you are not granted bail, you will remain in custody until your next court appearance.
Criminal charges are laid when the police have evidence that you have committed an offence. The type of charge will depend on the severity of the crime. For example, a summary conviction offence is less serious than an indictable offence and carries a lighter penalty. If you’re facing criminal charges, you will appear in court on the date specified on your summons or appearance notice.
When criminal charges are laid, the Crown prosecutor will decide whether or not to proceed with the charges. If the Crown prosecutor chooses to proceed, you will have a chance to plead guilty or not guilty.
In the event you plead guilty, the judge sentences you. If you plead not guilty, your case likely goes to trial.
While they’re often conflated with one another, detention and arrest are two different things in Canada.
Detention is when the police hold you for questioning and restrict your liberty. For example, if you are pulled over and asked to remain inside your vehicle, this is a type of detention. On the other hand, being under arrest means the police have formally taken you into their custody. In order for you to be placed under arrest, a police officer must have reasonable grounds to believe that you have committed an offence and clearly state that you are being arrested.
Next, we will answer some frequently asked questions about detention, arrest, and criminal charges in Canada.
In most cases, yes, but not always. The police must have a warrant to enter your home or search your belongings unless they have your consent or there are exigent circumstances. Exigent circumstances are emergency situations where the police believe that waiting for a warrant would result in evidence being destroyed or someone being harmed.
If you’re arrested without a warrant, you have the right to know why you’re being arrested and taken into custody. You also have the right to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.
Typically, you can be held without charge for a maximum of 24 hours. However, this timeframe might also be extended when a justice of the peace or judge is unavailable (including on holidays).
Facing detention, arrest, or criminal charges in Canada is never easy—especially when you’re unsure of what happens next or what your rights are. Once you know what will happen at each stage of the process and you have legal experts guiding you, it will be easier to navigate your way through it.
If you are facing any of these situations, we recommend speaking to a lawyer as soon as possible. The criminal defence lawyers at KIVLaw are here to help you navigate the criminal justice system and protect your rights. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.