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Canadian Court Rules You Have the Right To Google a Lawyer 105

Posted by timothy
from the here-it's-one-phone-call-and-a-brandy dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Hollywood crime dramas are infamous for the scene when an accused is taken to a local police station and permitted a single phone call to contact a relative or lawyer. While the storyline is myth — there is no limit on the number of phone calls available to an accused or detainee — Michael Geist reports on a recent Canadian case establishing a new, real requirement for law enforcement. After a 19-year old struggled to find a lawyer using the telephone, the court ruled that police must provide an accused with Internet access in order to exercise their right to counsel."
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Canadian Court Rules You Have the Right To Google a Lawyer

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  • by concealment (2447304) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @10:32AM (#42944247) Homepage Journal

    It seems to me obvious that this should be the case; Google has for most people replaced those annoying phone books.

    The only caveat is that they should make sure they lock down the machine well...

    • by reimero (194707)

      Locking down a machine isn't that hard, and setting the homepage to default to an appropriate search is also fairly trivial. You don't need the latest, greatest, most powerful computer, either. This could be done at relatively low cost with relatively few resources.

      • You don't need the latest, greatest, most powerful computer, either.

        You could use an iPad!

        • Re:ObFanboi (Score:5, Funny)

          by sourcerror (1718066) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @11:12AM (#42944723)

          As an added bonus, it would provide the lockdown too!

        • by bdwebb (985489)
          Not to Apple-hate (even though I do hate Apple), but I think police depts would be better served by a cheap as hell 7" off-brand Android tablet than the budget-breaking iPad...there are a plethora of apps that can provide the same type of lockdown and I'm certain that if this were a standard budgeted item there would be several companies created to provide police-grade lockdown capabilities.

          Ultimately you have to think that some detainees are going to literally throw the thing on the ground to piss off t
      • by Miseph (979059) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @10:47AM (#42944393) Journal

        I'm not seeing any particular reason that the time spent searching could not be supervised; no privileged information is going to be shared with the attorney before contacting them. Electronic supervision would be the obvious choice, but frankly I would rather see an officer putting physical eyes on suspects: it gives a more immediate means of challenging questionable use and it avoids any illusion on the suspect's part that they are not being watched.

        That said, the access itself should probably be fairly open. The detained would be well-advised to do at least minimal research on whoever will potentially represent them in court, and an overly broad block on access might restrict them from pertinent information.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          "I'm not seeing any particular reason that the time spent searching could not be supervised; no privileged information is going to be shared with the attorney before contacting them."

          Besides, everybody knows the address in the US.:
          http://www.bettercallsaul.com/ [bettercallsaul.com]

        • by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @11:54AM (#42945133)

          I'm not seeing any particular reason that the time spent searching could not be supervised

          I'm not seeing any particular reason it would need to be supervised. The phone calls aren't. The last time I was arrested, I spent about four hours in a holding cell, and there was a row of phones along the wall. There were no restrictions on who we could call, or how long we could talk. There was no indication that the phone calls were being monitored, and it is illegal to record calls without notification.

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            I'm not seeing any particular reason that the time spent searching could not be supervised

            I'm not seeing any particular reason it would need to be supervised. The phone calls aren't. The last time I was arrested, I spent about four hours in a holding cell, and there was a row of phones along the wall. There were no restrictions on who we could call, or how long we could talk. There was no indication that the phone calls were being monitored, and it is illegal to record calls without notification.

            Well, the t

            • Monitoring is necessary just to ensure that it's being used to lookup counsel and not just to hang out on Facebook.

              Why is this "necessary"? There is nothing illegal about "hanging out on facebook." If that is what a detainee wants to do with his time, so what?

              When I was in the holding cell, there were no restrictions whatsoever on who I could call, or what I could say. I was there for four hours, but other than that there were no limits on how long I could talk. Most guys were using the phones to call their GFs and apologizing for getting drunk and beating them up. How would it be any different if they did that on

          • by Nyder (754090)

            I'm not seeing any particular reason that the time spent searching could not be supervised

            I'm not seeing any particular reason it would need to be supervised. The phone calls aren't. The last time I was arrested, I spent about four hours in a holding cell, and there was a row of phones along the wall. There were no restrictions on who we could call, or how long we could talk. There was no indication that the phone calls were being monitored, and it is illegal to record calls without notification.

            Having been arrest too many times, I can attest that the local jail is(was) set up like that. First room you have a bunch of free phones. Unfortunately, I have never been in that room longer then 10 mins. And I'm talking at least 20 visits to the room (I used to be a bad boy). After that room, you get put into rooms where you have to call collect to make phone calls. And you can spend 8 hours in that room.

            I haven't been to jail for about a decade (good boy now), so I don't know how they have changed

      • They might not want to lock down the search though. Reason: top hit might get all the business so they would be preconditioning the market share of local lawyers. Better to let the suspect pick the search engine and search query so there is at least some amount of spread in the business.

    • They could easily have a list of lawyers on a piece of paper or computer to provide to people. Lawyers themselves could ask to be added to the list. If the sole purpose of internet access is to provide solely contact information, it seems a bit overkill, especially with "the decision may have resource implications, since providing Internet access will be more costly and cumbersome than pointing to a nearby telephone."
      • by bickerdyke (670000) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @10:51AM (#42944461)

        The right to freely choose a lawyer might be affected by such a pre-selection by the police.

        • And that can't be done by blocking internet access to certain lawyers as well?
          • by Mashiki (184564)

            And that can't be done by blocking internet access to certain lawyers as well?

            Technically it can, legally it can't of course. In Canada we have a standard called Bringing the Justice system into Disrepute. That would be one of those instance, it's actually pretty serious. It's one of the very few charges that when laid will not only see you stripped of service, but can have you disbarred, or removed from the bench with remand to custody.

            Never minding that up here it would also be a charter violation(the equivalent to a constitutional violation). There's a lot of case law covering

            • by kqs (1038910)

              Technically it can, legally it can't of course. In Canada we have a standard called Bringing the Justice system into Disrepute. That would be one of those instance, it's actually pretty serious. It's one of the very few charges that when laid will not only see you stripped of service, but can have you disbarred, or removed from the bench with remand to custody.

              We need such rules to be better enforced in the US. The actions of police and prosecutors once they believe you are guilty are often disgraceful, but are rarely punished.

              But no, such a list would be too long to be useful. Really, a better quality of court-appointed representation (and enough funding for same) would be another potential solution which would help solve both this and many other problems with the justice system.

      • by Endlisnis (208453) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @10:53AM (#42944495)
        The problem with just having a list is that the police now get to choose which lawyers will be defending representatives (the police could remove a lawyer from the list because he's very good at winning). The whole point of a phone call is that you get to CHOOSE your lawyer.
        • by Kaenneth (82978)

          And then the police will love it when your conviction get overturned for ineffective council, as they denied your access to effective council...

          Just like the pesky advising you of your rights thing.

      • A simple list is useless, you need to be able to research to find a good lawyer.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Good point. There's going to be a lot of attorneys with big boobs visiting police stations now.

      • Good point. There's going to be a lot of attorneys with big boobs visiting police stations now.

        Honestly, I've met a few hefty attorneys in my day, but there's no need to call the men out like that.

    • by Yaotzin (827566)

      The only caveat is that they should make sure they lock down the machine well...

      Is that necessary though? If I was in custody my first priority wouldn't be to check in on Facebook and idly browse porn.

      • by JustOK (667959)

        Yah, it should be twitter #busted #needalawyerandcheetos

      • why not? (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What makes you think that you'd be any better off using google than posting a request for your facebook friends. And if you're indigent (if you cannot afford one, an attorney will be appointed for you), you might as well use your computer time to do something you enjoy.

        My experience has been that there's more demand for bail bondsmen than attorneys at the local lockup. Most people would rather be released on bond and THEN find an attorney. Of course, if you're being interrogated, your strategy is "say not

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yes, it's necessary. Partly so the suspect can't do complex operations like transferring money to the Bahamas, partly so they can't collate and fire off complex sets of instructions to people who are *not* their lawyers, partly so they can't threaten witnesses, and primarily to prevent the police using keystroke loggers to sniff the suspect's email addresses and passwords.

        I'd be very curious to see how one could best lock down such an appliance.

        • by danomac (1032160)

          Well, if my own experience means anything, just redirect all web queries to Bing. They won't be able to find (or do) anything relevant.

    • I would imagine that the police are concerned about such things as suspects having access to relay/transmit information that would jeopardize their case or witness safety. It does present a significant technological challenge for the police department. I do support the courts decision however.

    • by aklinux (1318095)
      I was thinking more like guest access on a Google Chrome device and DNS filtered through something like OpenDNS.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    For police, the decision may have resource implications, since providing Internet access will be more costly and cumbersome than pointing to a nearby telephone.

    The other problem is how much access are you going to give the suspect? Would the police be allowed to monitor everything in case the suspect tries to tamper with evidence or influence people?

    • by Stolpskott (2422670) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @10:42AM (#42944335)

      The other problem is how much access are you going to give the suspect? Would the police be allowed to monitor everything in case the suspect tries to tamper with evidence or influence people?

      The question is an interesting one - police are (in most countries, at least, including Canada afaik) not allowed to monitor communications between a lawyer and their client, with that "no monitoring" also extending to their initial attempts to locate/contact their lawyer. Presumably if the police allow the accused to log into their gmail account to email a lawyer, they would not be allowed to retain those login details for future evidence searches. Of course, if the internet access is used purely to find a directory of lawyers and go down them one by one to find one willing/able to represent the accused, that is another thing. But if a police officer offered me a PC and said "just login to your email account here, find a lawyer and send them an email asking for help", I am not sure if I would laugh or cry at such a bad attempt at password phishing.

    • by digitalvengeance (722523) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @10:54AM (#42944507)

      According to Iowa Code 804.20, the police "shall" monitor any phone calls made. The exact text is:

      Such person shall be permitted to make a reasonable number of telephone calls as may be required to secure an attorney. If a call is made, it shall be made in the presence of the person having custody of the one arrested or restrained. (Source: https://coolice.legis.iowa.gov/Cool-ICE/default.asp?category=billinfo&service=IowaCode&ga=83&input=804.20 [iowa.gov])

      I can't speak to legislative intent, but I wouldn't be surprised if harassment of victims or witness tampering were at least part of that conversation. If your attorney comes down to the police station, then you can chat as privately as your attorney wants. In practice, the police monitor and log all calls made such that they can later prove that they gave the suspect a reasonable opportunity to contact someone. (Failure to do so can have pretty severe legal ramifications including excluding evidence.)

  • by bickerdyke (670000) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @10:46AM (#42944387)

    If you were allowed to call your lawyer, would you know who to call?

  • by Kinwolf (945345) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @10:50AM (#42944455)
    ... my lawyer is on a raid in WoW, I MUST level my char to 80 to be able to reach him!
    • by subanark (937286)

      Blizzard never did implement the Equipment Potency EquivalencE Number (EPEEN) system (which they introduced on 4/1/2010). If they did it would block out you from seeing or hearing anyone who wasn't leet enough to be worth your time (based on gear level) along with other bonuses to allow you to troll those lesser players.


  • If you were allowed to call a lawyer multiple times then I see no reason not to allow a person to google a lawyer.

    This might actually speed things up and maybe even alleviate the need for an escort. A cell with some locked down access to a yellow pages site or something of the sort. No need to leave.
  • by ClickOnThis (137803) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @11:23AM (#42944823) Journal

    ...what good is the internet if you are...unable to type?

    [Apologies to those with physical challenges.]

    • by danomac (1032160)

      Presumably if they're unable to use a finger to press a key on the keyboard they wouldn't be able to dial a phone number either...

  • For those of us who have had the unfortunate pleasure of being arrested, think about it. You had to call a relative, or look in a phone book for some advertisement of a lawyer. While I doubt they'll be getting many of these machines, one usually has at least 24 hours of free time in jail. Why not give that time to do at least /some/ due diligence in picking one's council. Bravo Canada.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why not give that time to do at least /some/ due diligence in picking one's council.

      While that certainly sounds nice, it has no real meaning to me.

      One of my teachers once told me: (translated)"Measuring is knowing". Followed by a grave "But only when you know what you are measuring".

      In my case (and probably lots of people with me) I would have no idea what to use as yardstick to measure those lawyers against.

      To pick a good lawyer probably goes the same as with picking a good plumber: Only after he did his

      • by dbc (135354)

        How true. My wife *is* a lawyer. But there is very little of our own legal business that she feels qualified to handle herself, since legal practice is very specialized, and her specialties aren't a lot of good outside of a large company context. Mostly, she is very good at hiring the right lawyer and getting good value for the hours billed.

        It's kind of sad that you need to be a lawyer in order to hire the lawyer that you need.

        I'll say this, if you are arrested and charged with something, you need a crim

  • And here's why -- just imagine if police were forced to provide this in the '80s. Kevin Mitnick could have used a Google search box to activate a script running on WOPR to launch a nuclear missile!

    We wouldn't even be here on Slashdot now, just huddled in our underground shelters for decades waiting for the end of nuclear winter. Although now that I think about it, I haven't been out of mom's basement since World of Warcraft was released. So I guess no real difference there.

  • In Canada, internet access is a "basic right" (what this means is kind of complicated, but basically everyone needs to be able to access internet, legally ... at least unless they are incarcerated already).

    So under our law, this allowance for access is easily within reading such rights.

    Not a lawyer, but worked for Canadian ISPs since the '90s.
  • The portrayal of police procedures in "Hollywood crime dramas" is generally going to reflect US law (or the popular perception of it, anyway). Last time I checked, our Neighbors to the North had their own legal system - one that doesn't always mirror our American one.

    • by jonadab (583620)
      It's actually remarkably similar, in terms of the basics. (We both inherited a large body of existing case law from England, and a lot of the subsequent developments have been similar as well.)

      There are numerous differences in the particulars, of course.
  • Dang summary made me go look at various Miranda/phone call pages on tvtropes!

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MirandaRights [tvtropes.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In Canada, the right to contact counsel does not extend to the right to have that counsel present during questioning. Unlike in the US, we can't tell the police to bugger off until our lawyer shows up. They can question us without counsel present as long as they like. We don't have to answer, but they can continue aggressive questioning.

  • by alexo (9335) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @05:33PM (#42948801) Journal

    Canada has a public health care system.

    Unfortunately, it does not have a public "justice care" system. If you need to defend yourself in court, you either need to pay a huge amount of money or, if you cannot afford the shittiest possible lawyer, you'll get a public defender that is so overworked and underfunded as to be even worse than the aforementioned shittiest possible lawyer.

    Once I asked an acquaintance of mine, who happens to be a criminal lawyer, how much on the average does it cost to have a decent legal representation for, say, a murder case. His answer: "How much does it worth it to you?"

    The institutional injustice system is a blight upon society.

  • "While the storyline is myth — there is no limit on the number of phone calls available to an accused or detainee — " In California, the arrestee has a right to 3 FREE phone calls within the local area codes (California Penal Code section 851.5). This has likely been bastardized over time to be what people perceive to be their "only calls" they get. There IS a limit on the phone calls available to an inmate outside of their 3 free ones- that limitation is that they must have friends willing t

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