How can I reach a friend or family member who has been arrested?

By Last Updated: March 16, 2022

It is extremely difficult to contact an individual who has been arrested. The first problem is figuring out where they have been taken. If the arrest happened in a rural area, it is most likely they have been taken to a local RCMP station. In a major centre like Calgary, however, the person under arrest may be in any of a number of district offices, or at the downtown arrest processing unit (APU), now called the Court Services Centre. If the offence is particularly serious, they may be taken to the major crimes centre at the Calgary Police Service Westwinds Campus. Edmonton has a similar centralized processing centre as well.

In Calgary and Edmonton, upon arrest for an offence that just occurred, most people are taken to a Police District Office for questioning and processing. It is possible that you will be contacted by your loved one from the District Offices if they know your phone number. If the arrested individual is not going to be released from the District Office, they will be taken to APU for a bail hearing. They can be detained at APU for up to 24 hours without a bail hearing. Even if the matter they are detained on is quite simple, there is often a backlog of matters waiting to be processed, so it’s not uncommon for someone who is freshly arrested to wait an average of 12 hours before being brought in for a bail hearing.  If they postpone their bail hearing, or are denied bail, they will be taken to a remand centre until their next scheduled court date.

It may be possible for them to contact you by telephone from any of those locations if they know your telephone number. Due to privacy legislation, even if you call a District Office, the Arrest Processing Unit, or a Remand Centre to find out where your loved one is being held, the police will not release any information to you. The only exception to this rule is that a lawyer can call any of these locations and the police will provide the relevant information once they confirm that it is in fact a lawyer calling. Otherwise, it is the responsibility of the detained individual to contact their friends and family and inform them of their detention location if they so chose.

If the individual is being held at a Remand Centre, it is possible to visit them, but only if the detained person included your name on their “visitor card.” You will have to call the Remand Centre and set up a visit on the day you would like to attend.

About The Author

Michael Oykhman

Managing Partner

Michael Oykhman is a senior lawyer and founder of Strategic Criminal Defence, a full-service criminal law firm with central law offices across Western Canada and Ontario.

My professional experience consists of countless court appearances and thousands of successful defences and satisfied clients. Over the last 10 years, I have worked to build a law office where all the lawyers share our collective experience, resources, and passion to help people. Our team approach to legal representation is client–rather than only law–centred. We look for opportunities to add value to our clients through strategic thinking and creative solutions.

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