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When can the police search me?

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When can the police search me?
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Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD)
Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Ontario Provincial Police (OPP)

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When can the police search me?
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Reviewed: 
November 2, 2018
Answer

The police are allowed to search you if:

  • you've been detained
  • you've been arrested
  • in certain circumstances when you’re at a place where they are searching for evidence and they believe you have the evidence on you
  • you're in a vehicle or boat, and they believe you are improperly storing or carrying open alcohol
  • you gave them informed consent to search you

Weapons

The police are allowed to search you if they have reasonable grounds to believe that you have evidence related to an investigation. For example, they can search you if you're at a place where they're searching for guns or other weapons, and they believe you have a weapon.

Drugs

They can also search you if you're at a place where they're searching for drugs, and they believe you have the drugs.

The police may be able to use a sniffer dog to search you and your belongings if they have reasonable grounds to believe you have illegal drugs and you are in place where you can’t expect to have very much privacy. This includes:

  • bus terminals
  • airports
  • schools
  • public highways

A sniffer dog is trained to detect drugs through smell.

Alcohol

The police can search for alcohol without a warrant if they have reasonable grounds to believe you're transporting liquor unlawfully. They can search you, and your boat or vehicle for:

  • open bottles or cans of alcohol that are being consumed or transported, and
  • alcohol that has not been stored in a closed compartment.

Safety search

The police can search you if they are protecting life and safety and have reasonable grounds to believe there is a real, immediate threat to the safety of the public or the police that can be eliminated by the search.

Strip search

The police don't usually need to do a strip search. They may decide to do one if they have reasonable grounds that it is necessary to discover weapons or evidence related to the charges you were arrested for. If the police ask you to remove your clothes voluntarily so that they can do a search, ask to talk to a lawyer right away. You should never be asked to remove your clothes where a person of the opposite sex or the public can see you. A strip search should be conducted at the police station.

Your rights

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects you from unreasonable search and seizure. The police must do the search in a reasonable manner. They aren't allowed to destroy your property for no reason. If the police violate this right, a court may later decide that the evidence they found through the unreasonable search can't be used against you.

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