Post by: Laura E. McLennan – Laura is a lawyer in Toronto and a graduate of the University of Ottawa
With the controversy over carding in Toronto and police brutality in the United States, a University of Ottawa law school grad has developed a new smartphone app to offer protections to those stopped and questioned by police.
The app, called Legalswipe is designed for those stopped in both Canada and the United States. It asks users a series of questions about the stop and prompts them to ask the officers questions during encounters.
The creator, Christien Levien, was reportedly inspired by his own police encounter. A police officer requested his ID and when Levien asked why, a second officer assaulted him. He was released without charge or explanation. Levien pursued a complaint and the officer was eventually reprimanded.
The app offers two primary services – a step-by-step guide to police encounters and an automatic means of recording those encounters.
The app opens with a reminder to be polite during encounters and that the app does not contain legal advice. It then prompts you to select a region. If you choose Canada, it asks what is the officer attempting and provides four categories: obtain ID, engage in a search, enter a house, or make conversation.
For each of these categories there are further questions and finally information about your rights. For example, if your car is being stopped, the app informs you that: “police officers are allowed pulling over vehicles at random to check sobriety, condition of the car, license, registration, or insurance under the Highway Traffic Act.” The app then prompts you to ask: “Do not search my car. Why am I being stopped?”
There is also an option to set up video footage, which can be taken at regular intervals from the front or rear cameras on your phone and will be sent to a drop box account and/or to an email address or addresses.
The app is available for both android and iPhones and has thousands of users. Currently, the information is provided only in English, but Levien has launched a crowd funding campaign to have the app available in other languages and to expand to other areas of law, including family, employment and immigration law.