Provide Your Own Best Criminal Defence in Calgary: Stay Silent, Call a Lawyer: Part 1

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The right to remain silent is a staple of American crime dramas. A suspect is arrested, and as they're being handcuffed and shoved into a car they're reminded that "anything they say can and will be used against them in a court of law." Anyone who watches British crime dramas might be familiar with a very different statement on a suspect's right to remain silent:

"You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court."

The history of the right to remain silent is a surprisingly complex element of modern criminal justice and legal system. Though the right to remain silent in the US stems from some of the same roots that led to the current right to remain silent in England and Wales, the way that right plays out with law enforcement and in criminal defence cases—and the warning given to those who are arrested and/or accused of crimes—is markedly different.

So what about Calgary, and Canada at large? Should you answer questions asked by the Calgary Police and Crown prosecutors that might assist in your defence, or should you remain silent no matter what, and talk to a defence lawyer before responding to any questions or making any statements?

All Canadians Have the Right to Remain Silent, and Everyone in Calgary Should Exercise It

The short answer is simple. When you've been charged with a crime in Calgary, or are being arrested on suspicion of having committed a crime, you have the right to remain silent, and there is no risk in refusing to answer questions before you speak to a criminal defence lawyer. You may be required to identify yourself, but you do not have to make any statements about your actions or intentions. It is in your best interests to remain silent until you speak with an experienced Calgary criminal defence lawyer.

Looking at the law, the answer is slightly more complex. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has several sections that have been interpreted as granting those arrested and/or accused of crimes as having a right to remain silent. Chief amongst these is Section 11(c), which reads:

"11. Any person charged with an offence has the right...not to be compelled to be a witness in proceedings against that person in respect of the offence."

This has been interpreted not only as meaning that the accused cannot be compelled to testify in their criminal defence trial, but that they cannot be compelled to respond to questions asked or to make any statements to anyone in authority at any point in a criminal investigation that might result in their being charged with and/or convicted of a crime.

Contact a Calgary Defence Lawyer BEFORE You Talk to the Calgary Police

We'll look at other details of your right to remain silent in Part 2 of this article. For now, if you've been charged with a crime in Calgary, contact a criminal defence lawyer now, before you say another word to the police, prosecutors, or other officials.

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