Vancouver Criminal Defence Lawyers – What to Do When Arrested

Have you been detained or arrested?
Do not talk to them.

We understand that any interaction with the police can be stressful, especially if you have been detained or arrested by an officer. You must know your rights in this situation. In this article, we will cover:

  1. What it means to be arrested;
  2. What it means to be detained;
  3. What to do when you are being arrested or detained; and
  4. What to do after you have been arrested or detained.

warning: The Information on This Page is Provided to Assist the Reader and Is Not a Replacement for Legal Advice from A Qualified Lawyer.

Arrest VS Detention


Detention is a complicated legal concept, and often you cannot tell that you have been detained when it occurs.

In short, you have been detained when you are forced to remain somewhere and interact with the police, even though you may not wish to do so.

Detention can be physical, where you are prevented from leaving by force. It can also be psychological, where the police use their authority to prevent you from leaving.

Detention can happen at any point during a police interaction, and you may not even realize that you have been detained.


If the police are arresting you, they must tell you that they are placing you under arrest.

They must also do you the following:

  1. Tell you the specific crime they are arresting you for;
  2. Read you your rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and
  3. Provide you the opportunity to speak with a lawyer.

Lastly, being detained or arrested does not require you to be placed in handcuffs – although this typically happens during someone’s arrest.

What to Do When Being Arrested

Most importantly: You are not obligated to speak to the police after you have been detained or arrested. Often it is a bad idea to talk to the police, to answer their questions, or to try to explain the situation.

It is a fundamental principle in our criminal justice system that you have the right not to speak to the police upon being detained or arrested by an officer. You can exercise this right without any fear of looking “guilty”.

This right continues throughout the entire criminal justice process, including any court proceedings that may subsequently occur.

What to Do After Being Arrested

If you have been arrested and released by the police, you have likely been provided some documentation by the arresting officer that requires to you attend court on a specific date.

It is important that you contact a criminal defence lawyer as soon as you can after you have been arrested and released so they can explain your rights to you and help you deal with the court proceedings.

The criminal justice system is complicated, technical, and stressful. The assistance of a qualified lawyer can help you resolve your case faster and better than you could on your own.

Call Pax Law

Pax Law’s Criminal Defence team can assist you with all the procedural and substantive aspects of the criminal justice process after being arrested.

Some of the initial steps we can assist you with include:

  1. Representing you during a bail hearing;
  2. Attending court for you;
  3. Getting information, reports, and statements from the police for you;
  4. Reviewing the evidence against you, and advising you on your chances;
  5. Negotiating with the government on you behalf to resolve the matter out of court;
  6. Providing legal advice to you about the legal issues in your case; and
  7. Giving you the different options you have and helping you decide among them.

We can represent you throughout the court process, up to and during the trial of your matter.

Frequently Asked Questions

What to do if you are arrested in Canada?

Do not talk to the police and contact a lawyer. They will advise you what to do next.

Should I remain silent if arrested?

Yes. It does not make you look guilty to not talk to the police and you are unlikely to help your situation by giving a statement or answering questions.

What happens when you get arrested in BC?

If you are arrested, the police may decide to release you after you promise to appear in court on a specific date, or they may decide to take you to jail. If you are held in jail after an arrest, you have the right to a hearing before a judge to obtain bail. You may also be released if the Crown (the government) agrees to the release. It is very important to have a lawyer represent you at this stage.

The outcome at the bail stage greatly affects your chances of success in your case.

What are your rights when arrested in Canada?

You have the following rights immediately after an arrest:
1) the right to remain silent;
2) the right to speak to a lawyer;
3) the right to appear before a judge if you are held in jail;
4) the right to be told what you are being arrested for; and
5) the right to be informed of your rights.

What do cops say when you get arrested in Canada?

They will read your rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to you. The police generally read these rights off of a “Charter card” provided to them by their superiors.

Can I plead the fifth in Canada?

No. We do not have the “Fifth Amendment” in Canada.

However, you do have the right to remain silent under the Canadian Charter or Rights and Freedoms, which is substantially the same right.

Should you say anything when arrested in Canada?

No. Often it is a bad idea to give a statement or respond to the questions you are asked after an arrest. Consult with a qualified lawyer to get information about your specific case.

How long can police detain you in Canada?

Before recommending charges, they can detain you for up to 24 hours. If the police want to detain you for longer than 24 hours, they must bring you before a judge or a justice of the peace.

If the judge or justice of the peace orders you to be held in custody, you can be detained until your trial or sentencing date.

Can you disrespect a cop in Canada?

Disrespecting or swearing at a cop is not illegal in Canada. However, we strongly recommend against it, as the police have been known to arrest individuals and/or lay charges against them for “resisting arrest” or “obstruction of justice” when individuals insult or disrespect them.

Can you refuse police questioning Canada?

Yes. In Canada, you have the right to remain silent during a detention or when arrested.

What is the difference between detained and arrested Canada?

Detention is when the police force you to remain at a location and continue interacting with them. An arrest is a legal process that requires the police to tell you they are arresting you.

Do you have to answer the door for police Canada?

No. You only have to answer the door and allow the police inside if:
1. The police have a warrant for arrest;
2. The police have a warrant to search; and
3. You are under a court order requiring you to answer the police and allow them inside.

Do you get a criminal record for being arrested?

No. But the police will keep a record of your arrest and the reason they arrested you.

How do I stop incriminating myself?

Do not talk to the police. Consult with a lawyer immediately as soon as possible.

What happens after police charge you?

The police cannot charge you with a crime in British Columbia. The Crown (lawyers for the government) have to review the police report to them (called the “report to Crown counsel”) and decide that laying criminal charges is appropriate.

After they decide to lay criminal charges, the following will take place:
1. Initial court appearance: You will have to appear in Court and pick up the police disclosure;
2. Review the police disclosure: You will have to review the police disclosure and decide what to do next.
3. Make a decision: Negotiate with the Crown, decide whether to fight the matter or make a guilty plea or resolve the matter out of court.
4. Resolution: Resolve the matter either at trial or by agreement with the Crown.

How to Interact with the Police in BC

Always be respectful.

It is never a good idea to be disrespectful to the police. Even if they are acting inappropriately at the moment, you should remain respectful to protect yourself. Any inappropriate conduct can be dealt with during the court process.

Be silent. Do not give a statement or answer questions.

It is often a bad idea to speak with the police without consulting with a lawyer. What you say to the police can hurt your case more than help it.

Keep any documents.

Keep any documents the police give to you. Especially any document with conditions or documents requiring you to come to court, as your lawyer will have to review them to advise you.
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