updated 12:39 am EST, Wed February 20, 2013
Ruling requires police stations to provide accused more than phone
A recent ruling by an Alberta, Canada judge has set precedent with his pronouncement that police must provide an accused with Internet access in order to properly exercise right to counsel. Christoper McKay, 19, was accused of driving under the influence of alcohol, and told police he wanted a lawyer. He was told that there was a toll-free number to contact a lawyer, but was unable to find assistance, and later told the court that he assumed he had used his Hollywood-perpetuated "one phone call" and did not think directory assistance was a "viable search engine" to hire a lawyer.
Judge H.A. Lamoreaux of the Provincial Court of Alberta debated whether "Internet access should form part of police resources provided to detainees in order to facilitate a reasonable opportunity to exercise the constitutional right to counsel." The Judge conducted a Google search for "Calgary criminal defense lawyer" and as expected, found a long list of potential local lawyers.
Nothing that the police routinely use Internet information gathering as part of investigations, the judge ruled that "the accused was actually directed to use the toll free number and he did so in ignorance of the potential to use other resources with which he might have been more familiar," such as the Internet.
Additionally, the ruling declared that "in the year 2013, it is the Court's view that all police stations must be equipped with Internet access ... and detainees must have the same opportunities to access the Internet to find a lawyer as they do to access the telephone book to find a lawyer." The ruling is likely to be challenged by the Canadian government, as the mandate poses security and financial issues unlikely to be easily resolved.