Legal App is No Replacement for Legal Advice

July 15, 2015

With issues such as carding by Toronto area police currently being such a hot topic in the media, it’s no wonder that citizens are seeking tools to assist them with police interactions in an immediate manner. Smartphone apps such as Legalswipe claim to offer legal advice to users from the comfort of their own phone. Simply input the nature of your police interaction into the program, and it will provide you with information about your rights and applicable questions to ask the officer before obliging in their request.

Say you’re speaking with a police officer that asks to see your identification. Legalswipe will suggest that before providing the officer with your I.D. you ask him or her, “Why do you need my I.D.?” or “Am I under arrest?”  Legalswipe will then inform you that, unless you are under arrest or being detained, you do not need to show your I.D. The app will also allow users to film their encounter and send it to a remote server, or geo-tag emails and send them to relevant parties.

Sounds pretty good, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Every single legal situation is different, from the people involved to the time and place to the nature of the incident. It is for this reason that “one size fits all” legal advice does not exist. It’s not a stretch to see Legalswipe users being led astray by the app and charged with a crime like “obstructing police”. And be sure of this: the excuse that “the app made me do it” is not a defence that will hold up in court.

Furthermore, most people would probably would find it surprisingly difficult to work their way through the questions and answers in an app like this one while being confronted and questioned by a police officer. Also, if a police officer thinks you are currently engaged in a criminal offence, then vigorously flipping through a cell phone while you are being investigated is an activity which may trigger the officer to seize your cell phone and try to search it. This may not be justified, but recent developments in the law around cell phone searches could be interpretated by a police officer as an invitation to conduct unwarranted searches of your cell phone.

While the recording and data transmission capabilities of Legalswipe are indeed an excellent feature, as a Criminal Defence Lawyer in Toronto, I have serious concerns about the app creating more problems than it solves. The fact is that if you have time to use an app like this, you have time to place a phone call to a trusted Criminal Defence Lawyer. As a Criminal Defence Lawyer, I am committed to being available to my clients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There’s no inconvenient time for me -- when my clients need me is when I am there for them, regardless of the circumstances.

If you’ve been detained or arrested by a police officer, Smartphone apps are no replacement for the solid legal advice of a skilled Criminal Defence Lawyer. Reach out to my office today for a confidential consultation, free of charge.

When a computer program can do a better job of getting my client out of jail, or explaining to a jury why my client must be acquitted, I’ll hang up my robes. For the time being, if you want accurate, effective, and individualized criminal legal advice, there’s simply no app for that.


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