AuthorSteve Coughlan/Glen Luther
ProfessionProfessor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University/Associate Professor, College of Law, Saskatchewan
The central goal of a proper criminal justice system must be to maintain
a balance between the individual interest of private citizens to carry on
their lives free from st ate inter ference, and the communal interest in
maintaining a safe society. One of the most visible ways in which those
two goals come into conf‌lict with each other is when agents of the state
physically t ake control of private citizens: that is, when they exercise
their powers to detain or to arrest.
Powers to detain and arrest arise at a number of points in the crim-
inal justice system, and indeed outside it. Travellers arriving in the
country are detained at customs. Motori sts can be detained for a var-
iety of pur poses, r anging f rom checking the mecha nical f‌itness of the
vehicle to determining the blood-alcohol level of the driver. Someone
accused of an offence might be detained pending trial or to be assess ed
to determine f‌itness to stand trial, or he might be detained afterward,
whether pursuant to a sentence, following a f‌inding of not being crim-
inally responsible, or for having been found to be a dangerous offender.
Statutory schemes authorize detention for immigration, deportation, or
security-related reasons. The police might arrest a per son in order to
charge her w ith an offence, might ar rest her at a later st age if a surety
for the accused’s bail withdraws, or might ar rest her on a bench wa r-
rant if she fail s to appear for trial. An absconding witness is subject to
being arrested.
This book does not attempt to deal with all situ ations in which
detention and arrest occurs. Its focus is on “street-level” encounters, de-
tentions and arrests that occur in the course of investigating crime and

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