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Googling for a lawyer while under arrest is a right, rules Canadian judge

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goog campus 7
goog campus 7

A Canadian judge ruled in a recent case that arrested individuals have the right to search for legal counsel with Google — going so far as to say that all police stations should have internet access and computers to let them do so. As reported by The Star, Judge H.A. Lamoureux of the Provincial Court of Alberta was ruling on the case of Christopher McKay. When McKay was 19 he was arrested for impaired driving — he scored above the legal limit on a breathalyzer test — and when brought to the police station was given the opportunity to contact an attorney. He placed one phone call, wasn't successful, and then gave up (according to later testimony, he said he thought he was only allowed one call as is often depicted in films and television).

In a hearing, however, McKay said that the main way he would try to find information on a subject he wasn't familiar with would be Google, and not the phone book or calling information — in fact, he even stated that he didn't consider "411 a viable search engine." Judge Lamoureux found the discrepancy in perspective compelling. "We are at an unprecedented time in human history," the judge wrote in the ruling on the topic, stating that the "vast majority of individuals born after the year 1980 first look to the virtual world for information" rather than telephone books or "numbers posted on a wall." When he was not provided with internet access, Judge Lamoureux writes, McKay "was not given a reasonable opportunity to exercise his right to access a lawyer."

Lamoureux goes on to suggest that every police station should computers and internet access at the ready for such situations. "In the Court's view, in the year 2013 police providing access to the internet is part of a detainee's reasonable opportunity to contact legal counsel," the judge writes. No matter what one thinks of the particulars of McKay's case, the notion is certain a welcome evolution — one that will hopefully be considered elsewhere as the ways in which we communicate and seek out information continue to redefine themselves.