Legally speaking, police are required to have a reason to pull you over while you’re driving in your car. This could include things like having a tail light burnt out, failing to make a complete stop, making an illegal U-turn, or making an illegal left turn. The truth is, sometimes police pull citizens over for no reason at all. If a police officer does pull you over, you need to show them your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration. Although you are required to give them this information, you are not required to answer any other questions or provide details that could possibly incriminate you.
But what happens if a police officer asks you to step out of your vehicle and tells you they would like to search your car? In most cases, police are not permitted to search your vehicle without first arresting you or getting a search warrant. They are, however, allowed to look inside your car through the windows and can use a flashlight to do this if it’s nighttime.
There are some extreme circumstances where police can search your car without arresting you or obtaining a search warrant first. If the police have probable and reasonable grounds to believe there are illegal drugs or alcohol in your car, they are allowed to search it. The same thing goes if they believe there is evidence relating to the commission of a crime in the car. In addition, they must also believe that drugs, alcohol, or evidence have the possibility of being destroyed if they needed to wait for a search warrant.
When it comes to searching your person, the police may only do so if you have been placed under arrest or if you have verbally consented to the search. There are some exceptions to this rule including:
- The police are searching for drugs in an area and you are present. They believe that you possess drugs.
- The police pull a vehicle over on suspicion that the people inside are drinking alcohol or transporting it illegally. If they believe that you have alcohol as well, you will have to submit to a police search of your person.
- If the police believe that you possess an illegal weapon, or that you possess a weapon that was used to commit a crime, or they believe the weapon might be destroyed before they can get a search warrant issued, you will have to submit to a search.
For the reasons listed above, you are best advised to not obstruct the officers who are going to search. You do not have to provide your consent. Just don’t get upset or combative with the officers. If you believe you have been treated unfairly or that the police had no reason to search you, it’s recommended that you seek legal advice from a lawyer or make a complaint through the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD).
If you do not have a lawyer and want to talk to one before taking action against the police, Ottawa’s Armoured Suits Criminal Defence Lawyers offer a free 30-minute private consultation. Contact us by phone at 613-233-0008 or e-mail at [email protected] to schedule your meeting.