Unreasonable Search & Seizure

Our lives are governed by our rights and freedoms; without them, we would live in a lawless society. Every citizen has a responsibility to respect the rights of others—and that includes police officers. What happens when an officer conducts an unjustified search of another person?

Section 8 of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that all citizens must be protected against unreasonable searches or seizures. A search can be defined as an inspection of one’s body, property, or vehicle. A seizure is when those items are taken by the police to be used as evidence.

Even though searches are necessary for criminal investigations, police officers can’t conduct them at will. Requirements must be met to justify searching an individual or seizing their property. In this post, we’re going to discuss what needs to be obtained before searches can be done, and what might happen if you are searched unreasonably:

What Makes a Search “Unreasonable”?

To answer this question, we first need to review what a police officer needs to conduct a search:

  • A search warrant. This document gives authority to police officers to not only search your home, person, or vehicle, but also to confiscate any evidence they discover. It’s typically signed by a judge.
    If you find yourself in this situation, you can ask to see the search warrant and verify that all information on it is correct. Misinformation could make the search warrant invalid.
  • Reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Does the police officer have a reason to believe that a person may be carrying illicit drugs or weapons? A tip from an unverified anonymous source does not stand as reasonable suspicion. 
  • Emergencies. In a time-sensitive circumstance, there may be no time for a police officer to obtain a search warrant. Naturally, this clause is highly dependent on context and timing. For example, if a police officer caught an individual committing a crime, they have justification to seize their belongings. 

Are all searches that don’t meet these requirements considered “unreasonable”? Not necessarily. The police may find probable and reasonable cause to conduct a search that falls outside of these parameters. Whether the evidence will be able to be used in court, will be up to the judge to decide.

How Does the Court View Unreasonable Searches & Seizures?

In some situations, any evidence gathered during an unreasonable search may be dismissed by the court. This is highly dependent on context and the nature of the incident. 

Evidence might be excluded from a trial if it was obtained unethically. If the judge finds that the search was unreasonable or discriminatory, the case may be dismissed altogether. 

We are entitled to the privacy of our bodies, our information, and our homes. The police can conduct searches and seizures when they have the grounds to do so. But not all searches and seizures are justified, especially when they violate the rights and freedoms of others.

Do you suspect that you were subjected to unreasonable treatment? At our Winnipeg criminal law firm, we provide experienced legal representation for theft, fraud, drug charges, and more. Contact Brodsky Amy & Gould today and we can help protect your rights.