When Can A Police Officer Legally Search You?

April 7, 2021

Most people are not familiar with their rights and assume that if an officer of the law wishes to search you, that you must comply. However, that is simply not true. Police officers can only perform searches if they are legal.

On what grounds can a police perform a legal search?
If an officer suspects that you have illegal substances such as drugs on your person, they can search you. They can also search you if they believe that you have illegal substances in your vehicle or are consuming alcohol in your vehicle.

Additionally, if a police officer suspects that you are in possession of a weapon or that you pose a threat to those around you, a search can be performed.

What happens during a search?
Before searching you, a police officer must tell you why they must perform this procedure. They cannot simply start patting you down. During a legal search, the police will pat you down to ensure that you are not carrying a concealed weapon. If the search in question involves your car, they will open closed areas like the glove compartment and trunk, and search between and under the seats. For searches in which the possession of illegal drugs is suspected, a drug sniffer dog (canine unit) may be used. These dogs are trained to smell drugs and will not harm you while they are sniffing about.

Can I oppose a search?
When it comes to legal searches, you should not deny the police. However, if you feel that you are being searched on illegal grounds, you can object and ask to speak to a lawyer. Moreover, strip searches are not routine and you do not have to comply. If a police officer is requesting a strip search, especially if you are in a public place, do not agree to it and ask to speak to a lawyer immediately.

What if I get hurt while the police are performing a search?
There is a difference between getting hurt during a search and the police hurting you purposefully while they are searching your person. Under no circumstances are the police allowed to use violence during a legal search if you are cooperating with their request. The police can only use force to search you if you are resisting aggressively and they feel that you are a threat to them and the people around you. If you are hurt because you are resisting you may not have grounds to pursue a case against the police. Conversely, if you are intentionally hurt by the police during a search, you can pursue a case against them.

If you feel that your rights have been violated by an illegal search or for more information about the procedure, contact Toronto Defence Lawyers.

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