Right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure
The Charter protects everyone’s reasonable expectation to privacy. This means that no one can search you, take away your personal belongings or access your personal information without clear legal reasons.
Authorities acting on behalf of the government, such as the police, must carry out their duties in a fair and reasonable way. For example, they cannot enter private property or take things without good reason. Police are required to get a warrant from a judge before searching someone’s home.
Interactions with the justice system
The Charter sets out rights that deal with the interaction between the justice system and individuals. These rights ensure that individuals are treated fairly at every stage of the justice process. This is especially true if an individual is charged with a criminal offence.
Protection against unreasonable laws
The Charter protects everyone against unreasonable laws that could lead to imprisonment or harm their physical safety. The law may still comply with the Charter if it is consistent with a basic set of values. For example, there must be a rational link between the law’s purpose and its effect on people’s liberty. Also, laws should not have a severe impact on people’s rights to life, liberty or security of the person.
Protection against arrest without good reason
The Charter also says law enforcement agencies cannot take actions against individuals that are random or not backed by good reasons. A police officer, for example, must have reasonable grounds to believe you have committed a crime and must tell you why you are being arrested and detained. You also have the right to consult a lawyer without delay and to be informed of this right. Finally, you have the right to have a court decide whether this detention is lawful. If you believe your detention is not legal, the Charter protects your right to challenge it.
Rights after arrest
If you are charged with an offence under federal or provincial law you have the right to:
- be told quickly of the offence you are charged with
- be tried within a reasonable amount of time
- choose not to testify at your own trial
- be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a fair and public hearing by an independent and unbiased tribunal
- only be denied reasonable bail with cause
- be tried by a jury for serious charges
- be convicted only for an act or omission that was a crime at the time it was committed
- only be tried or punished once for an offence
- receive the lesser punishment if the punishment for the crime changes between the time it was committed and the time of sentencing
Protection against cruel and unusual punishment
In addition the Charter protects everyone from cruel and unusual punishment. This includes torture, excessive or abusive use of force by law enforcement officials. Also, sentences of imprisonment must match the seriousness of the crime committed. For example, an extremely long prison sentence is not appropriate for a very minor crime.
Rights in Court
The Charter offers certain protections if you are accused of a crime and must go to court. This includes your right to a quick and reasonably speedy trial. This trial must be fair and done by an unbiased court that assumes your innocence until you’re proven guilty. You are also entitled to an interpreter during court proceedings if you do not understand the language or if you are hearing impaired.
Anyone who is a witness in a trial has the right to not have incriminating evidence used against them in later proceedings. For example, if you admit to a crime while acting as a witness in court at someone else’s trial, the police cannot use it to prove your guilt in court later. Perjury, which is lying during legal proceedings, is the one exception to this rule.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act protects people under the age of 18. For more information on this act, check out this guide to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
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