By Jesse Stamm
Hello Hempology students! I am an articled student (graduated from law school, will be writing the bar exam in Sept.) at Roger Batchelor Law Corporation in the Western Communities. I moved to Victoria in 1994 to attend the University of Victoria, and have spent 10 of those years completing two Bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Psychology (with distinction) and my Juris Doctor (law degree).
Having spent so much time at UVic, I have seen Ted Smith on numerous occasions and have followed his involvement with the legal system throughout the years. I recently met with Ted and we discussed the possibility of running a legal advice column in the newspaper. While there are many aspects of the legal system that would be relevant to the other issues in the paper, we believe that the most valuable advice will relate to the criminal justice system. I will set out some of the most useful general principles in this introductory article, and will address more specific issues in later issues. Please feel free to suggest potential future topics to either myself or Ted, and from your messages I will incorporate the answers into future articles.
While some of the obvious marijuana issues relate to specific criminal charges such as possession, trafficking, or production, there are a number of basic and fundamental principles of criminal law that relate to any involvement with the police, which every person in Canada should be aware of.
The first and most important principle is the right to remain silent while interacting with the police. This is an inalienable right, and there are absolutely no circumstances under which a person can be forced to speak to the police. However, there is nothing to prevent a peace officer from continuing to speak to a person under arrest, especially about unrelated topics such as hockey, football, and so on. This is a commonly used technique, and has successfully worn down a countless number of persons to the point where they begin to engage in conversation with the police. This is always a poor decision, and should be carefully guarded against. Of course, you are obligated to identify yourself if you are driving a motor vehicle or if you have been placed under arrest; failure to do so or providing a false name is grounds for being charged with obstruction of justice, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment; however, identifying yourself can be done without speaking a single word. Remember, if you have been detained by the police, the only thing that you should say is “I would like to talk to a lawyer!”
This leads to the second most important principle of criminal justice: the right to legal counsel. If a person is detained or arrested by the police, they have the right to speak to a lawyer “without
delay.” This right is found in Section 10(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, while police almost always use the word “arrest” when arresting someone, it is less common for someone to hear the word “detention.” If you are being asked questions by a police officer and you have any question about whether or not you have been “detained,” ask if you are free to go. If the answer is yes, simply walk away. If the answer is no, you are under detention and your right to talk to a lawyer springs into existence. At that point, remember the first principle!
Thanks for reading this introductory article, and I hope that there will be many questions that I can address in the next issue. Please send possible topics to firstname.lastname@example.org or directly to Ted.