An Alberta, Canada court has handed down an interesting ruling regarding detainees’ rights and how they run up against the modern world.
According to the ruling, police must provide the accused access to the internet so that they can initiate a Google (or Bing, I guess) search for legal counsel.
The case in question involved a 19-year-old man who was detained for possible driving under the influence. Since his cellphone was already in lockup, police offered him the phone at the station as well as the local Yellow Pages.
Also available to Christopher McKay was the 411 directory assistance, but according to court documents he didn’t even consider it a “viable search engine.” The court asked McKay how he would have found legal counsel if given the choice, and he said Google.
The court agreed that he should have been given access to a computer with internet access to aid in his lawyer search.
“The Crown says that the police do not have any duty in law to provide access to the internet for detainees when there is no specific request to access the internet. The Court disagrees. In particular case, 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. In the Court’s view, in the year 2013 police providing access to the internet is part of a detainee’s reasonable opportunity to contact legal counsel. This is so even whether counsel of choice is not an issue and the accused is simply seeking general information from a source such as Google,” said the court.
The court showed that a quick Google search for “Calgary criminal defense lawyers” turned up plenty of viable options, and even came to the wild conclusion that the information of Google may even be more up-to-date and helpful than the information contained in the Yellow Pages or the like.
The court also noted that police are now routinely using the internet in order to assist with their investigations, so it stands to reason that they should provide the accused access to the internet to find a lawyer.
Basically, it boils down to the fact that plenty of young people have no idea what the hell 411 is, and Google is how they find information in their daily lives.
“There are sufficient numbers of individuals born post computer age who have no understanding of the paper world who have extensive knowledge and understanding of the virtual world,” said the court. “These individuals must be accommodated and the only way to do that is to ensure that detainees under arrest be given the opportunity to use the internet to call a lawyer in the same way that they can use a telephone book to call a lawyer.”
[via The Star]