It’s a brilliant idea, and given the current state of affairs, one that was bound to happen before too long.
It’s a smartphone app that’s designed to offer legal advice and other protections to people who are randomly stopped and questioned by the police. Applicable in both Canada and the US, the app provides a series of questions and answers to cover your back in the event of an incident with the police.
It asks the initial question of “what is the officer attempting?” and allows users to choose options like: “obtain identification” or “engage in a search.” It then suggests the proper questions to ask, for example, “why are you requesting my ID?”
While it may not be common knowledge, the app will inform you that if you’re not being arrested or detained, then you’re not required to show ID. The app also has a video feature, which allows you to send the recording to a remote server and could prove valuable in documenting certain situations. It also allows you to send geo-tagged email messages.
Of course, Legalswipe comes in the wake of a heated debate over the practice of “carding,” and in the growing voice of visible minorities who claim that the police disproportionately singles them out and violates their legal rights.
The app is the brainchild of Christien Levien, a 28-year-old law school grad who saw the need for the app after his own brutal encounter with the police. After Levien questioned why he was being asked for ID, he was assaulted by police officers before being put in the back of a cruiser, and later released without charge or explanation.
The app is now available for Apple and Android devices. In the meantime, Levien is trying to raise $140,000 via crowdfunding to further develop the program, with plans to perfect certain features and to add other languages.