Although RCMP members have a certain degree of social authority, that doesn’t mean they can do anything they want, even if it’s supposedly for police business. Even those who are being investigated covertly or overtly have rights under Canadian law and the authorities are required to follow certain rules when an investigation requires them to enter someone else’s house. The following are the only circumstances when police are allowed to enter your home legally:
1. Warrantless entry, provided you gave them permission
If police suspect a crime is taking place or took place in your home, they will likely come over and have a look. But as a homeowner, you are innocent until proven guilty, and you can still refuse to let the police enter your home if they don’t have a warrant from the court. A warrant will give them the power to enter your home, search it, and take anyone, including you, to the station for questioning or arrest you outright. Don’t be pressured into letting the police in if they don’t have a warrant. But if they have reason to believe that a crime is taking place in your home (for instance, if they believe you are keeping people in your basement for eventual trafficking), they can and will enter even without a warrant.
2. Warrantless entry, under situations of emergency
Under Canadian law and police regulations, there are four cases when police officers can enter a home without the permission of a homeowner or a warrant:
- If someone who committed a crime is in your home
- If someone who is about to commit a crime is in your home.
- If someone who is about to or already hurting a person is in your home
- If someone who needs first aid or to be rescued is in your home.
Outside these four circumstances, the police must have a warrant from the court to enter your home legally, even without your permission.
3. The court issued an arrest or a search warrant
If the police manage to convince a judge that a crime is about to take place or took place in your home, a judge will issue a warrant that will make it legal for the RCMP to enter your home and search it. You could get charged for obstruction of justice if you refuse to allow them entry even if they have a warrant.
A search warrant lets the police enter your home to look for things listed in the warrant. They can confiscate the object or objects listed in the warrant, and if you were using these objects for criminal activity at the moment of the search, the police can legally arrest you even if they don’t have a warrant for that. Note that a search warrant does not allow the police to destroy anything in your home if it’s unrelated to their search. The court also restricts the places where the police can look for objects that are related to their investigation. After the police have looked for the objects in the warrant, they have to leave your home at once, whether they found anything or not.
On the other hand, an arrest warrant empowers the police to enter a home and take into custody the people whose names are listed in the warrant. The police can only search your home and its surroundings, but if they find that you are harbouring a person of interest, you might be charged with conspiracy to hide a fugitive.
When the police show you a warrant, make sure to read every detail written in it before you let them in. Look at the name and address of the person subject to the arrest or search. Read the places where the judge explicitly allowed the police to go, and you have the right to refuse them entry to areas in your property that were not mentioned in the warrant. If they get even the spelling of your name or your address wrong, you have the right to refuse entry. If they insist on entering despite the discrepancies in the warrant, you can sue the police for illegal arrest or trespassing.
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