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Searches & Surveillance

Whether you're out in a public place, driving in your car or even relaxing at home, the police can search both your person and your car or home if the right conditions exist.

Searches

Persons

Police can search people in some situations if they believe they are connected to a crime.

The police may ask anyone questions about a crime if they have reason to believe that person is involved. They can do what is called a pat-down if they have reasonable safety concerns. A pat-down is to look for weapons. It is not a full search and it cannot be used to look for evidence of a crime.

The police can do a full search if...

  • they are given permission by the person they want to search
  • the person is under arrest
  • they find someone in a place they are searching for drugs and believe that person has drugs on them
  • they believe that the person is carrying a weapon and that it might be removed or destroyed if they take the time to get a warrant

Vehicles

The police can search a vehicle only if it is connected with a crime.If the police stop a vehicle they can search it if...

  • they are given permission
  • they have a search warrant
  • someone in the car is arrested
  • they have reasonable grounds to believe someone in the car has committed a criminal offence
  • they have reasonable grounds to believe there is evidence of a crime in the vehicle and it would be removed or destroyed if they took the time to get a search warrant

Homes

In some situations the police may search a home to look for evidence of a crime. They may also search a home to ensure the safety of the people in the home.

The police can search a home if...

  • someone who has authority over the home understands what the police want to do and gives them permission
  • they have a search warrant
  • they arrest someone in the home
  • they have reasonable grounds to believe that there is evidence of a crime in the home and it would be removed or destroyed if they took the time to get a search warrant
  • they have reasonable grounds to believe that they need to enter the home to keep someone safe from harm and there is no time to get a warrant

Surveillance

The police can put people under surveillance or use a wiretap to intercept private communications but there are rules about when and how they can do this. The police must apply to court for a warrant and be granted a warrant before they can begin surveillance or a wiretap.

The warrant can only be for a maximum of 60 days.

Before granting this kind of warrant the court must find that there are reasonable grounds to believe a crime has been committed and that information obtained by surveillance or wiretap could help solve that crime. The court must consider if it would be in the best interest of the administration of justice. They must also consider if other means have been tried without success or whether other means are unlikely to be successful and the urgency of the situation.

Once they have been granted a warrant, the police can use any device, investigative technique or procedure and do anything described in the warrant. This can include video surveillance and cell phone tracking. If video surveillance is authorized the warrant can contain any terms and a condition that the court considers necessary to ensure that people’s right to privacy is respected as much as possible.

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PLEA gratefully acknowledges our primary core funder the Law Foundation of Saskatchewan for their continuing and generous support of our organization.