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What are my rights if the police have a search warrant?
A search warrant is a legal document that allows the police to search a specific place for specific items. The police must show you the warrant if you ask to see it. If the police don't show you the search warrant, ask to see it.
The police might let you know when they want to enter your property to conduct a search. Sometimes they will come to your door and tell you that they have a search warrant.
But if the police have reasons to believe there's a threat of violent behaviour toward them, they can enter without letting you know.
If they have a valid search warrant, the police have the right to:
- enter your property
- do a brief search to ensure it's safe and to figure out who is on the property
- pat you with their hands to search for weapons, if there are reasonable grounds to believe you are a threat to public or the officer
- search you for the evidence listed in the warrant, if there are reasonable grounds to believe you have that evidence on you
During a search, always keep a record of what's happening. Take photos or video, and write notes. Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.
You have rights even when the police have a search warrant.
Right to reasonable search and seizure
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects you from unreasonable search and seizure. This means that the police must conduct the search in a reasonable manner. They aren't allowed to destroy your property for no reason. If the police do their search in a way that is not reasonable, a court may later decide that the evidence they found can't be used against you.
Right to leave
Unless you're being detained, you have the right to leave if you want to. The police will do a brief search of the property to ensure that it's safe and to figure out who is on the property. During this brief search, the police often handcuff and identify everyone who is there. This is called securing the property. Once the property has been secured, you should be free to leave.
Right to be told what's happening
If you're not free to leave, you're being detained. You have the right to be told why you're being detained.
Right to talk to a lawyer
You have the right to contact a lawyer if you're being detained. The police must tell you that you have this right. If you tell the police you want to talk to a lawyer, the police must allow you to contact a lawyer. You must be allowed to talk to the lawyer in private.
The police must tell you about Legal Aid Ontario. Legal Aid Ontario pays lawyers known as duty counsel to give free legal advice if you've been arrested or detained. This advice is available 24 hours a day. If you've been arrested or detained, you can contact duty counsel immediately. If they don’t tell you, ask the police for the toll-free phone number for duty counsel.