The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide only general information on legal issues within the province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation. The purpose is to make you aware of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.
The Police and Your Rights | Audio
The Charter of Rights and Freedom provides that:
It is your right not to be held in custody or stopped by anyone from moving about
Police cannot go against this right
Police are able to talk to anyone that they like, like any other citizen. But you have the right to remain silent and are not obligated to tell them anything. This does not apply if you have been stopped while driving a vehicle.
If a police officer stops you, you can ask them if you are free to go. If they say “yes” then you can go. If they say “no” then you are being detained.
If the police want to detain or arrest you, they must:
have an arrest warrant,
have reason to suspect that you have committed an offence, or
have reason to believe you are about to commit an offence
If you are driving a vehicle, the police can stop you, search your vehicle, or ask to check your breath for alcohol.
If the offence is not serious, the police can charge you with the offence and let you go.
If you are to go to court, you will receive a document called “APPEARANCE NOTICE,” and also a Fingerprinting
You must attend court whenever you are charged with an offence
If you fail to appear in court, you will be charged with ‘’FAILING TO APPEAR’’
The police must inform you of the reason(s) for your arrest, unless you were caught in the act of committing the offence
The police must inform you if the reason/s for your arrest changes at any time
In a case of a serious offence, the police can detain or arrest you
If you are arrested, the police must inform you of your right to speak to a lawyer and have them handle your case
The police must provide you with the means of contacting a lawyer, including letting you use a telephone
If you cannot pay for the services of a lawyer, the police must tell you about the free legal services available and provide you with their phone number
The police must be reasonable to allow you choose and speak to a lawyer of your choice
The police must allow you the use of a telephone and when you are speaking to your lawyer, they must give you some privacy
Unless and until you have a good opportunity to speak to a lawyer of your choice, the police cannot ask you questions or attempt to gather evidence from you
It is only after you speak to your lawyer that the police may continue with their investigation
Even where the police want to gather evidence after you speak to your lawyer, you have the right not to talk to the police or say anything about your involvement in any offence
You can waive your right not to speak to a lawyer and tell the police that you do not want a lawyer
The waiver not to speak to a lawyer must be voluntary and understood by you
If you are detained and you believed it was without good or legal reasons, you have the right to be quickly brought before a judge and ask for your release
If the court finds that your detention is not lawful, you have a right to be released immediately
You have a right to be given reasonable bail
For a bail to be refused, the crown prosecutor must prove to the court that
you may not likely appear on your court dates or
you may commit a crime if you are allowed to leave
If you are arrested for a drug offence, you must prove to the court that if you are released that
you will not commit other crimes
You will return to court on your next adjourned date you will obey all the conditions attached to your release
Dial‑A‑Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.