2 min

What To Do If Arrested

If you’re arrested on sex charges, criminal lawyer Frank Addario says there are three things to remember.

• You have no obligation to answer questions – beyond identifying yourself.

“Essentially, tombstone data,” says Addario. “Place of birth, date of birth, citizenship, address and employment.”

Job specifics aren’t a requirement, but offering that kind of information up front will look better. Police will say you refused to give out employment details at a bail hearing, and say you may have no ties to the community. That could keep you from getting a low bail, because it implies you might skip.

And normally, there’s no reason for police to inform either relatives or an employer of an arrest.

Don’t lie, Addario adds. You will be searched: “Most people carry a wallet or purse and can expect police to rifle through it; they are entitled to search the person incidental to the arrest.

“When people are charged as found-ins, the best advice is to cooperate with the police, ID yourself accurately and promptly and quietly await your release.”

Addario says people are often tempted to ask the cops for advice – “What should I do” is a common request. “Get legal advice from someone with legal training,” advises Addario, rather than from your captors.

Don’t answer questions related to the arrest or the investigation.

• On most sex charges, you can expect to be let go within hours.

“It’s reasonable to expect that the police will, if they are arresting someone who has no criminal record or is not out on any other bail, that they will be released forthwith from the station.”

But on a minor charge, play your cards right and you could skip the cop shop altogether.

Say police catch you in a washroom committing an indecent act. If you pull out your wallet, ID yourself and say you’ll go home directly, you could avoid arrest. Arrest is a formal procedure at the police station; saying you’ll not repeat the offence means you should just get a summons. You’re still charged with a criminal offence, but don’t have to go through the formal nastiness.

You can be strip searched if you are suspected of having contraband or weapons, but a senior officer must be informed of the decision.

• If you are taken in, you have “an absolute and inviolable right to call duty counsel and get legal advice,” says Addario.

“Once you get into the police station, say, ‘I want to call duty counsel.’ That’s it, police are required to dial it for you.”

The duty counsel program is run by the law society, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The number’s posted in every cop shop, and the criminal lawyers on staff there will give you instant legal advice – free.

The Coalition For Lesbian And Gay Rights In Ontario advises that if you feel that a police officer is treating you badly, note badge number, name, licence plate numbers of police cars and cars belonging to witnesses, as well as police car ID numbers.

But Addario has little faith in filing a complaint. “It’s hopeless. They’ve abolished the police complaints commission.” You must file a complaint at the division which oversees the officers who allegedly harassed you.