Can the police search my home without a warrant?

As a Canadian, you are entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy. That expectation, however, is not consistent everywhere, and varies depending on where you are. For example, you have a very high expectation of privacy in a private home, less in a personal vehicle, even less in a rental car, etc.

 

The Supreme Court case R. v. Patterson, 2017 clarifies the law regarding searches of someone’s home without a warrant. In order to search a house without a warrant, the police must prove that there were urgent circumstances that made it impracticable to obtain a warrant. In the Patterson case, police responded to a 911 call from a woman who needed help. The police knocked on the door even though the woman had already been taken to hospital, and Patterson answered and admitted to having marijuana in the home. They told him they needed to confiscate it, but would not arrest him. As he went to shut the door to go get the marijuana, the police pushed open the door and followed him in, finding guns and drugs.

 

The Supreme Court found that, since the police were not intending to arrest him, there was no immediate need to enter the apartment without a warrant (such as the need to preserve evidence). For this reason, the search was a violation of Patterson’s section 8 charter right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure, and the evidence was excluded.

 

This decision reaffirms how high the threshold is for allowing police to enter someone’s residence without a warrant, reinforcing the privacy rights of Canadians. So, in short, yes the police MAY enter your home without a warrant, but only in specific extenuating circumstances. In most cases, the police are not allowed to search it without a warrant unless you give your consent.

 

Ron Ellis is a criminal defence lawyer based in London, Ontario and practices criminal defence law all over Southwestern Ontario, including Grand Bend, Sarnia, Woodstock and Kitchener.

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