"The police can’t arrest me... I’m under 18." This is not true. Police officers are allowed to detain or arrest teens under 18 as well as adults. But the police must respect the person’s rights, no matter how old that person is.
Detention and Arrest Are Not the Same
Many people think that being detained means being in prison. But detention includes more than jail time. People who are detained are not free to leave the place where they are being held. This might be a police station during an investigation.
Many people also think that a person is under arrest when the police stop or detain the person. This is not true. You can be detained without being arrested. If police officers want to arrest you because they think you committed a crime, they must clearly tell you that you are under arrest.
When Arrested or Detained
At the moment the police detain or arrest you, they must tell you why.
You will have to identify yourself to the police. They must tell you your rights in a language you understand. You have the right to remain silent and the right to speak to a lawyer. The police will contact your parents. You have the right to have your parents with you when you are being questioned.
You Do Not Have to Answer Questions
Anyone who is detained or under arrest has the right to remain silent.
So, if you are stopped by the police, you can politely refuse to tell them what you’re doing, where you’re going or who you’re with and why. This is true whether you’re at the police station, on the street, in a police car or anywhere else. You will not be punished if you decide to remain silent.
Be Careful! If you do decide to talk to the police, whatever you say can be used against you in court.
Right to Speak to a Lawyer
The police will usually tell your parents as soon as they have stopped or detained you.
If you’re stopped by the police, you can ask one of your parents to be with you while the police question you. But your parents cannot answer the questions for you.
Right to Be Accompanied by Your Parents
If you’re under 18 and the police arrest or detain you, they must tell your parents as soon as possible.
If you’re stopped by the police, you can ask one of your parents to be with you during questioning. But your parents cannot answer the questions for you.
Usually the police can only search people who are under arrest. But there are exceptions. For example, the police can search someone if their safety, the safety of the person they arrest or anyone else’s safety is threatened.
If you are arrested, the police can search you to ensure safety or to find evidence. Usually, they will pat you down over your clothes and check your pockets. Sometimes the police can do a more detailed search, such as searching your backpack, car or cellphone.
Important! Different rules apply for searches done by a teacher or school principal.
If Your Rights Are Not Respected
If you think the police did not respect your rights, ask them to identify themselves. You can then make a complaint to the Commissaire à la déontologie policière (police ethics superintendent).
You can also contact a lawyer from the legal aid office in your area, especially if your rights were not respected when you were accused of a crime.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.