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What To Do When Arrested
written by Esther Lee and Mercedes Sharpe | Photo by Nicolas Quiazua

If you are detained, questioned, or arrested by an officer, be aware that:

You do not have to provide your identity to the police unless you are: under arrest, driving a motor vehicle (you must show a driver's license), in a bar or movie theatre (to prove that you are over 18), or found at night in a public place (like a park).

If a police officer asks you to accompany them or identify yourself in a situation other than those listed above, ask if you are under arrest. If not, you don't need to provide identification.

Police must identify themselves upon request, or provide a badge with their name and ID number.

If you are detained by the police,

Ask why. Police must explain what charge you are being arrested for. If you are not under arrest, police can only detain you if they have “reasonable grounds” to believe you are implicated in a crime.

You do not have to provide any information other than your name, birth date, and address. Anything you say to police can be used against you.

For any search by police:

There must be “reasonable grounds” to believe you are in possession of a firearm or drugs or

They are detaining you for questioning (due to reasonable belief that you are implicated in a crime).

In order for police to search your home, they must have a search warrant signed by a judge.

What to do if in a mass arrest

Contact the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COBP). The COBP  supports victims of police brutality by helping them file complaints in the Police Ethics System and contest wrongful accusations. Remember to remain patient – the collective might take several days to respond following mass arrests.

You have thirty days to contest your ticket. Check the not guilty (non-coupable) case behind the ticket, and leave the plea (plaidoyer) section blank. The plea is optional information that will not help your case.

Demand to see the evidence held against you. To do this, you must write to the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DCPP), taking note to include your case number (written on your ticket/statement of infraction).

Be swift about collecting evidence. If you ask within a week of the arrest, you can request surveillance footage from surrounding businesses (e.g. the Grande Bibliothèque).

Engage in collective defense. Protesting is a collective effort, and therefore collective opposition to mass arrests imposes a large weight on the judicial system. The main lesson from the trial of March 15, 2009, in which 221 people were arrested and ticketed for infraction of the P-6 anti-protest bylaw, is that contenders have to present a clear defense and testify to it, otherwise they are found guilty.

Engage in self-representation. The COBP lawyers are willing to give a crash course in defending oneself in court without formal representation, free of charge.

Collective Opposed to Police Brutality

In response to a public assembly held regarding the mass arrests after the 1995 demonstration against Human Life International, in which street youth and punks voiced a strong demand for a permanent basis against police brutality, the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COBP) organized to protect threats against freedom of speech and address the impunity rampant in the actions of the SPVM. Eighteen years later, examples such as Victoriaville and the offenses perpetrated by officer 728 prove that violence continues to permeate police work and is rarely punished. “Impunity makes police believe they are above the law,” Francois Du Canal, a member of the COBP, said in an interview with The  Daily. “The media reminds us that there are the ‘bad apples’ in these events, but officer 728 was not an exception.” Since 1997, the COBP has organized the annual demonstration commemorating the International Day Against Police Brutality in the streets of Montreal. Students taking to the streets on March 15 must remember, whether their cause is to oppose SPVM interventions in marginalized communities or “ostie de carrés rouges,” that the COBP will be available to help guide ethics committees and courts to protect the rights of protesters in the event of wrongful arrests or acts of violence.

For more information, refer to the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COBP) website,