If the police have a search warrant for your home or property in Toronto, it means that they possess a written order from a judge or justice of the peace providing the right to search a specific place, look for specific items, and take specific items that they find.
In Ontario, a valid search warrant includes the following:
- The address of the place they are permitted to search
- The date(s)/times when they can conduct the search
- Details of the items that the police are looking for
It also includes:
- The offences related to the items they’re searching for
- The signature/name of the judge or justice of the peace who ordered the search
- The date/time/place the warrant was signed
Some search warrants allow searches only during the day and others include nighttime too, but searches are usually conducted in daylight hours. There are strict rules governing what the police can and can’t do.
You have rights even in the most troubling situation and it’s important to know what these rights are if you ever get a knock on the door from police with a search warrant.
What is the right to “reasonable search and seizure”?
A search warrant grants the police the right to reasonable search and seizure only. This is a vague term but you are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms from unreasonable search and seizure.
A valid warrant means that the police have the right to:
- Enter your property
- Conduct a brief search to make sure that the property is safe
- Frisk you to search for weapons if there is a reasonable threat
The definition of “reasonable” can be argued in legal terms but, for instance, the police cannot damage your property without good reason.
However, you should know that if the police knock on your door with a valid search warrant and you do not open it, they can break it down. The police can also use “reasonable force” when conducting the search.
It’s important, however, for a criminal defence lawyer to understand the precise actions of the police when they ask to enter your home and what they do inside. It can greatly aid your defence if you are charged with a crime and the police act unlawfully.
Sometimes, evidence discovered during an illegal search and seizure can be declared inadmissible in court.
Do you have the right to leave?
If the police have a search warrant, they have the right to enter and secure the property. This means that once they are inside, they will do an initial search to check who is present and to ensure that it is safe.
You may be handcuffed during the initial search but, after that, you are usually free to leave unless you are detained by the police. If you are detained, you have the right to be informed of this.
Can you talk to a lawyer?
If and when the police inform you that you are being detained, you have the right to talk to a lawyer. The police must inform you of this right.
You can instruct the police that you want to speak to a lawyer in private. The police must permit it and inform you that you have the right to free legal assistance if required.
What should you do if faced with a search warrant?
If you get a knock on the door and are confronted by police with a search warrant, you can protect your rights but do it respectfully and courteously.
Taking certain steps will check that the police follow the correct procedure. However, assert your rights without inflaming the situation by acting aggressively or belligerently.
Generally, following these five steps will help:
Have you been served with a search warrant in Ottawa?
If you believe that an unlawful search may have been conducted at your home or are being investigated for any criminal matter, contact an experienced criminal lawyer at Affordable Defence for a free case evaluation.