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Police Powers: Stops and Searches

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In what urgent situations can the police enter my home?

Usually, before entering a home to arrest someone, the police must get a warrant for that purpose and they must say who they are and why they wish to enter.

However, the police can enter without a warrant or permission in order to arrest someone or take them into custody when they have reasonable grounds to believe that:

  • they need to enter in order to prevent someone inside from being seriously injured or killed, or
  • there is evidence in your home that relates to a serious offence, and they need to find that evidence right away or it might be lost or destroyed.

The police can also enter your home without a warrant or permission if they are in "hot pursuit" of someone whom they have the authority to arrest. For example, they would be in hot pursuit if they were chasing someone from the scene of a crime and they saw that person enter your home.

And the police can enter your home to look for evidence if:

  • they have reasonable grounds to believe there is evidence in your home, for example, drugs or weapons, and
  • they need to act immediately so that the evidence will not be lost or destroyed.

The police can also enter your home for any of the following reasons:

  • to give emergency aid to someone inside
  • to protect the life or safety of someone inside if they have a reasonable belief that a life-threatening emergency exists
  • to protect the life or safety of people in the home if someone heard a gunshot inside
  • to prevent something that may be about to happen, if they have a reasonable belief that their entry is necessary to stop it or to protect their safety or the safety of the public
  • to investigate a 911 telephone call
  • to help someone who has reported a domestic assault to remove their belongings safely
  • to protect people from injury if the police have reason to suspect that there is a drug laboratory in the house
  • to help animals in immediate distress because of injury, illness, abuse, or neglect

Under child welfare law, the police can enter your home without a warrant to remove a child if they have reasonable grounds to believe any of the following:

  • the child is neglected or abused and is "in need of protection"
  • the child is a "runaway" under the age of 16, who was in the care of a children's aid society, and whose health or safety might be at risk during the time needed to get a warrant
  • the child is under 12 years old and has done something that would be an offence if someone 12 or older had done it.

The police cannot enter your home without a warrant just to investigate whether a child's mother or father is a good parent.

Your landlord also has the right to enter your home in an emergency. Landlords can ask a police officer to come with them.

Unless you have given the police notice not to enter your property, they can go onto your property to protect it from suspected criminal activity.