Do you have a right to Google a lawyer upon arrest? Maybe.
A recent decision from an Alberta Provincial Court has raised an interesting question for a person’s to contact a lawyer in the age of the internet: Do you have the right to Google your lawyer when under arrest? The decision of R. v. McKay 2013 ABPC 13 says yes.
The times have changed and looking for a lawyer on the internet is often the first step:
The case came before Justice H.A. Lamoureux and focused squarely on what criminal lawyers describe as “implementation duties” of police when effecting a person’s right to counsel under section 10(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The defence argued that in the present day and age, it is unsatisfactory for the police to not allow an accused person reasonable access to the internet to find the lawyer of their choosing.
Up to the present, it is rather uncontentious that a person under arrest must be provided up to date lawyer directories and/or Yellow Pages in order to search for a lawyer they know or of their choosing. However, the issue of searching on the internet for a lawyer is far less clear, if ever decided at all. In short, the accused argued that “internet access should form part of the resources provided by police to detainees in order to allow them a reasonable opportunity to exercise the right to counsel.”
The accused, Mr. McKay was arrested for impaired driving in Calgary in August of 2012. According to police, the accused was provided with several resources to contact counsel including a toll free number, 4-1-1 for information on phone numbers, and current editions of the white pages and the yellow pages. It was conceded by police that Mr. McKay was not provided any means to access the internet while he was detained. Regardless of that lack of resource, the police asserted that Mr. McKay did not ask for internet access while under arrest.
“It’s 2013 Your Honour, no one uses the Yellow Pages anymore”
Mr. McKay testified on his own behalf on the motion and stated that in the area of the phone there was a toll free number on the wall that he used on the basis that the officer told him it was a number for free legal advice. Mr. McKay did not recall telephone books or them being pointed out to him. He testified that under normal circumstances he uses Google to access information he needs. He further testified that he didn’t really know what 4-1-1 was about and did not consider it a “viable search engine”. Mr. McKay was adamant that if he was provided the opportunity, he would have used Google to find a lawyer of his choosing.
In a very insightful view of Google and it’s use in contemporary culture, Justice Lamoureux wrote: