The Highway Traffic Act provides police with the power to pull over any motor vehicle during the course of their duty in order to achieve public safety. This means that an officer is allowed at any time to pull over any vehicle in order to check for a valid license and/or insurance on the vehicle. When signalled to pull over, drivers are required to do so immediately and are not permitted to leave until advised by police. After being pulled over, the officer is allowed to request license, registration, and insurance documents for the vehicle and driver. The officer is also entitled to inquire about the ability of the driver to properly operate the vehicle, such as asking whether they have consumed alcohol prior to driving. Although you are not required to answer any further questions, it is always advisable to be pleasant and cooperative when dealing with the police.
Although the police are not allowed to search your vehicle when they stop you, they ARE allowed to look in your windows, and may use a flashlight if they cannot see (for example at night). The police are only allowed to physically search your vehicle if they have reasonable and probable grounds to suspect that there is evidence in relation to the commission of a crime in your vehicle and that it will be removed or destroyed if they get a warrant. Accordingly, if the officer looks in the window of your vehicle and sees in plain sight anything illegal or something that gives rise to these reasonable probable grounds, they MAY search the vehicle.
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.