Area of Law: Criminal Law
Answer # 745
Can the police enter and search your home?Region: Ontario Answer # 745
When the police can enter your home
The police can enter and search your home in two general circumstances. First, they can enter and search your home if you give them permission. Second, they can enter and search your home if they have a search or arrest warrant. The police also have the power to enter, but not search, your home in certain emergencies. If you have been charged with a crime, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.
Entry with your permission
First, the police can enter and search your home if they are given permission. Permission means that someone who lives in the home allows the police to enter. Generally, permission can only be given by an adult. If the police ask to enter your home without a warrant, and you do not want them to come in, you should tell them clearly that you do not want them to enter. Otherwise they may think that you have agreed to let them in. However, if you give the police permission to enter and they do not have a search warrant, you can ask them to leave at any time if you change your mind.
Entry with a warrant
Second, the police can enter and search your home if they have a search warrant or an arrest warrant. A warrant is a piece of paper signed by a judge that states who is to be arrested or what place can be searched. It gives the police the power to enter and search your home even if you don’t want them to. You should not get in the way of a lawful search or arrest—if you do not let the police inside, you may be charged with obstructing the police.
A search warrant gives the police the right to enter and search your home for the things listed in the warrant. It gives the police the right to search for and take these things if they are found. The police must have the search warrant with them and you have a right to see it.
While searching, the police cannot destroy things unnecessarily. They can also only search in places where the things listed in the search warrant might be found. For example, they can’t look inside a drawer if they are looking for a stolen bicycle. Once the police have found the things listed in the search warrant, they must leave your home. They cannot continue to search. Ask for the name and badge number of the officer who appears to be in charge of the search.
An arrest warrant gives the police the right to enter a home to arrest the person whose name is listed on the warrant. An arrest warrant also gives the police a limited power to search a home. If an arrest is made in your home, generally the police can only search the immediate surroundings.
If the police enter your home with a search warrant or an arrest warrant, they can also take other illegal things or evidence of crime that they find during their search. For example, if the police have a search warrant to look for a gun and while they are searching, they find illegal drugs, the drugs can be taken and used as evidence for a drug charge against you.
Entry in emergencies
Finally, the police also have the power to enter your home in certain kinds of emergencies. There are three general circumstances that are considered to be emergencies.
First, the police can follow someone into your home if that person has just committed an offence, or if the police believe that person is about to commit an offence. Second, the police can enter if they believe someone in your home is about to harm another person. And third, they can enter to give emergency aid to someone inside.
This power to enter your home in an emergency does not give the police the right to search your home. However, while they are in your home the police can seize anything illegal or any evidence of crime that they see.
If during a search, the police take something from your home, you may be entitled to get it back. Contact a lawyer for further assistance.
If you have been charged with a crime, contact our preferred criminal defence experts, The Criminal Law Team
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