Can the Police Enter and Search Your Home?

PUBLISHED ON October 12, 2023

It is never a comforting situation to be awakened by police officers knocking at your door. Worse still is the situation where the police are asking to come inside to search the house. The question, “Can the police enter and search your home?” is a common one. The short answer is: it depends. Keep reading to discover under what conditions an officer can enter and search your home.

First, however, this information is not intended as legal advice. It is for informational purposes only. To properly answer this question and provide legal advice for your situation, you will need to speak to a qualified lawyer. Contact Brian Ross for advice and guidance about how to move forward after a suspected unreasonable entry into your home or search of your property.

The Doctrine: Sanctity of the Home

The right to private property is a foundational concept: a person’s home is their castle. Because of this, section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Everyone has an expectation of privacy in their residence, and nobody should be allowed to breach this right except in very limited circumstances.  

When They Can Enter Your Home

What are the circumstances in which the police can enter and search your home? 

  • With your permission: A police officer can enter your home without a warrant when explicitly permitted by an adult who lives there. That is, a person is free to ‘consent’ to police entry. With lawful consent, the police can enter and conduct their business. Even under these circumstances, however, you can change your mind and ask them to leave. Of course, nobody has to consent to the police entering a home. Everyone is free to say “no”.  
  • With various warrants: If the police have a warrant to search, arrest, or enter, they do not need your permission, and you cannot legally deny them entry. In other words, you cannot say “no” to entry when police have a valid warrant to enter. To obtain a valid warrant, the police will have to get authorization from a justice. While you can ask to see the warrant, you cannot challenge the warrant at the time of entry. Should it turn out that the warrant should never have been issued, your lawyer can apply to have all evidence seized as a result of the unlawful entry excluded from being evidence at trial.
  • Exigent circumstance: These situations refer to emergencies or important conditions where an officer can enter your home without permission or a warrant. For example, if police officers are in hot pursuit of a suspected criminal who enters your home, they can enter. They can also enter if they reasonably believe someone is in immediate danger. For example, a person calls 911 from the home stating they are in grave danger, and the line is disconnected. In this circumstance, police may be able to enter the home to check on the well-being of the caller.

Criminal Defence Lawyer Brian Ross Can Help You Advocate for Your Rights

Section 8 of the Charter is a complicated area of law and is beyond the scope of this informational article. If you have questions about your rights, contact Brian Ross, a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto, at (416) 658-5855 for legal advice.

CONTACT BRIAN ROSS

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Brian Ross is a founding partner at Canada’s largest criminal Law firm, Rusonik, O’Connor, Robbins, Ross & Angelini, LLP. Prior to founding this firm, Brian was a partner at Pinkofskys, a leading law firm famous for its vigorous defence of its clients.

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