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Search and Seizure: What You Should Know if You Want to Become a Police Officer

April 24, 2019

police foundations program

Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.” This is a fundamental legal right that protects Canadians from intrusive and unreasonable searches. If police violate this right in order to obtain evidence, it often means that that evidence is inadmissible in court.

If you want to pursue training to eventually become a police officer or work in a related profession after your police foundations course, then you will need to have an understanding of Canada’s search and seizure laws. Here’s a brief look at what search and seizure laws are and what they could mean for your career.

Students in Police Foundations Courses Know That Warrants Are Often Required

While the Charter prohibits “unreasonable search and seizure,” it does not clarify what “unreasonable” means. Instead, that has been left up to the courts to decide. Generally, it has been interpreted to mean that police officers need to obtain a warrant before they can search or seize a person’s property, or else they need the property owner’s consent to perform a search. You’ll learn more about search warrants, the Charter, and how they could affect your career in your police foundations program.

For police to search private property, they usually need to obtain a search warrant beforehand

For police to search private property, they usually need to obtain a search warrant beforehand

There are exceptions, however, where police can search property without a warrant or consent. For example, police can enter a home in order to prevent someone from being seriously injured or killed. Likewise, if police have reason to believe that evidence relating to a serious offence might be lost or destroyed during the time it takes to obtain a warrant, they can also conduct a search without a warrant.

Search and Seizure Laws Also Apply to Other Security-Related Professionals

Search and seizure laws don’t just affect police officers. By studying police foundations courses, you may also choose to pursue other professions, such as being a security guard or customs officer. Search and seizure laws apply differently to security guards and customs officers than they do to police officers. For one, security guards are private citizens, whereas police officers are agents of the state. As such, security guards do not have the right to search and seize a person’s private property nor can they obtain a warrant to do so. Only police can obtain a search warrant.

However, there are times when security guards may be able to perform searches. For example, a bag search may be required for anybody who wants to gain entrance to an event. Since the event is being held on private property, security guards employed by the property owner have the right to search entrants’ bags as a condition of entry. While people can refuse to have their bags searched, that also gives security guards the right to refuse them entry.

Customs officers, on the other hand, have much broader search powers than police typically do. This is because the Supreme Court has ruled that individuals have a lower reasonable expectation of privacy at border crossings than in other situations. For example, customs officers can typically search a person’s vehicle, luggage, and electronic devices without a warrant when they are crossing the border. Unlike police officers, customs officers do not need reasonable and probable grounds to conduct a search.

Customs officers have much broader search powers than police officers do

Customs officers have much broader search powers than police officers do

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