Aspiring lawyer Christien Levine is doing something almost unheard of: giving away his services for free using a smartphone app. Legalswipe informs people of their rights using taps and swipes if they’re confronted by police.
“I’ve experienced being walked up to by cops, being questioned for no reason,” said Levine, who’s of Caribbean descent and says that racialization is a big part in carding. “I’m definitely not the first, it happens all the time.”
Levine is a University of Ottawa law school grad, and when he finished up his studies last year, he combined his knowledge with his technological savvy to build the app that, essentially, puts a lawyer in your pocket.
“I think officers take advantage of people’s ignorance,” he said. “It would have assisted me many times in being confident and stating what my rights were.”
Legalswipe was released for iPhone and Android last week, and draws from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s “know your rights” handbook.
Depending on the officer’s demands, the app references specific laws and sections of the Charter and even suggests word-for-word responses. It’s also got video-recording and emergency-message capabilites, so that you can send them to specific contacts through your Dropbox, but only if you want.
“This is a primarily tool for legal education. I hope that people are educating themselves prior to any given interaction, so they know what their rights are,” Levine said. “But I do believe that during an interaction, it is possible to tell an officer: ‘This is being recorded, so I expect that my rights will be respected.’”