Law Enforcement and Your Home: Know Your Rights

Canadian citizens have specific rights as contained within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Unfortunately, most people do not realize or understand these rights, which can sometimes lead to an abuse of power by law enforcement and unlawful or illegal searches and seizures. When it comes to your home, whether you own it or are renting, law enforcement have limited powers and must adhere to the letter of the law.

Access to Your Property

Law enforcement officers do have the right to walk up to the front door of your property in cases where they need to communicate with you for specific reasons, such as if you called them or they are conducting an investigation, where you are a person of interest. They do not have the right to access the property simply to determine if there is illegal activity occurring by looking into the windows of the home.

Other than speaking with you from outside the home, they do not have the right to enter the home or search the premises without the proper authorization. In addition, you are under no legal obligation to speak with them. You have the right to refuse to speak with them, end the conversation whenever you desire, or not answer your door.

Entering the Home

Law enforcement agents may ask if they can come in, and it is entirely up to you whether you invite them into your home. If you do invite them into the home, they are not allowed to search the home, open drawers, or make other such demands, without the proper authorization. You also have the right to tell them to leave.

Searching the Home

If you invite law enforcement officers into the home, they might do a cursory search by looking around the areas they can see to look for signs of evidence. However, they cannot pick up, touch, or remove anything in the home without a warrant. They may also ask you if they can search specific areas of the home, but you are under no obligation to give them permission.

They can only search those areas you agreed to if you gave them permission to conduct a search. Otherwise, they must obtain a search warrant to conduct a legal search of the home. Further, they can only conduct a search for those areas listed on the warrant.

Arrest Warrants and Your Home

If the police suspect a person of interest they have an arrest warrant for is within your home, they do have the right to enter the home and search for that person, but cannot conduct other types of searches.

Circumstances Where a Warrant Is Not Needed to Enter the Home

There are specific circumstances where law enforcement may enter the home without a warrant, such as:

  • Responding to an emergency call where you are in danger or distress.
  • In pursuit of a suspect, who enters your home.
  • In order to prevent the destruction of evidence for serious criminal offences.

Please remember the above content is provided for informative purposes only and should not be construed as actual legal advice. If you believe your Charter Rights have been violated by law enforcement, you need to contact Toronto criminal defense lawyer, Jeff Hershberg at (416) 428-7360 now for a free case consultation and to obtain actual legal advice.