In Canada, the police are only allowed to search your vehicle in very specific circumstances. If your vehicle is unlawfully searched, your Charter Rights will have been violated and any evidence that has been seized during the course of the search cannot be used against you.
To find out if your vehicle has been searched unlawfully, please contact us at Mickelson & Whysall to speak to a Vancouver criminal lawyer.
When can the police search my vehicle?
The police are perfectly entitled to stop you while you are driving. This is not uncommon, and police officers may ask to see your driver’s licence and insurance documents. They may also want to check that the vehicle is mechanically fit and that you are not impaired by alcohol or drugs.
But at what point can the police start searching your car?
Well, the police are allowed to peer through the windows. If it is dark outside, they may use a flashlight to assist them. Other than that, their powers are fairly limited. This means that during a routine stop, they cannot ask you to open the trunk or glove box so they can get a better look. Nor can they search the interior of your vehicle as they wish.
In fact, the police can only search your vehicle if:
- You give them your permission
- They have a search warrant
- They arrest you and you are in/near the vehicle
- An offence has been, is being, or is likely to be committed in the vehicle
- They have reasonable grounds to believe that they will find alcohol, drugs or other items relating to a criminal offence in the vehicle
If the police search your vehicle and none of these apply, you may have been subject to an unlawful vehicle search.
Unlawful vehicle searches in British Columbia
It can be difficult to understand when there has, and has not, been an unlawful vehicle search.
The first three scenarios in the above list are fairly clear-cut, although of course, issues do arise in these situations. For example, you may dispute the fact that you gave your permission, or the search warrant may not be valid.
However, the last two scenarios often prove to be something of a grey area. The police must have reasonable grounds to believe that they will find evidence of illegal activity in your vehicle, and that this evidence would be destroyed if they delayed the search in order to get a warrant. What is deemed to be ‘reasonable’ is open to interpretation, and the courts do not always agree with the police that a search was conducted on reasonable grounds.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defence Lawyer If Your Vehicle Has Been Searched
If a vehicle search is unlawful, it means that Section 8 of your Charter Rights has been breached. As a result, any evidence that was collected during the course of the search cannot be used against you, even if it points towards your involvement in a criminal offence.
If your vehicle has been searched and you are concerned about the implications this will have, you need to speak to a Vancouver criminal lawyer without delay. A lawyer can tell you whether the evidence was unlawfully obtained, and if so, can apply to have the evidence struck out.