If you have been the subject of a police search, a search & seizure lawyer can help you protect your rights. Our defence lawyers are experienced at analyzing and challenging searches, whether authorized by a warrant or not. This area of criminal law can be the most difficult to understand and defend against. Please contact our office and seek legal counsel if you require professional help to prepare your defence.
The Charter protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizure. Privacy is the core value protected by the right against unreasonable search and seizure. Searches therefore exist where a law enforcement investigatory technique intrudes upon a reasonable expectation of privacy. This means that searches not only include classic searches of your person or home, but also such things as demands for breath samples, heat imaging a residence, requesting ISP data, and more.
Police have a variety of search powers. The most common type of search is the search “incident to arrest” – when police arrest and charge an individual, they can search that individual and their immediate surroundings for the purposes of collecting evidence and ensuring police and public safety. Police can demand and conduct searches for breath samples in the course of a lawful impaired driving investigation. Police can also request search warrants from judicial authorities, pre-authorising them with the power to search a place or receptacle, such as residence or computer, for evidence of suspected criminal activity. Perhaps the most intrusive of police search powers is the wiretap warrant, essentially allowing police to listen and record alleged criminal activity connected to a place, person, or communication device in real-time.
The right to challenge the legality of a search depends on whether the accused person had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the place or thing searched, and if so, whether the search by the police was conducted reasonably. The point of challenging a search is that, if successful, evidence seized during the course of the search may be excluded from the trial.
Persons obviously have a reasonable expectation of privacy in certain things and places, like their home or cellphone. However, it becomes murkier when considering places and things such as an apartment’s common area, or a car borrowed from a friend, or ISP data held by an internet provider. IN borderline cases, expectations of privacy are determined by a holistic look at the entire circumstances, including ownership, possession, historical use, etc.
Searches must be conducted reasonably in order to be lawful. Searches must therefore be authorized by law, that law must be reasonable, and the manner of search must be reasonably. Police must be acting under an appropriate search authority or their actions will be a breach of the accused person’s rights. Moreover, police, even in conducting a lawful search, must do so in the appropriate manner. For example, a lawful search incident to arrest may become improper if it includes viewing an accused person’s cellphone; similarly, a search warrant executed without a knock and announce may become improperly executed.
If you have been the target of a police search and have been charged with a criminal offence, you need experienced legal advice. The law of search and seizure may well be the most complicated area of the criminal law and accused persons will have enormous difficulty properly informing and defending themselves. Our defence lawyers are experienced at analyzing and challenging searches, whether authorized by a warrant or not, and can assist you in preparing your legal defence.
If you have any questions, contact our offices now so we can help address you or your loved one’s legal jeopardy. We are available 24/7. We are forceful advocates and we ensure that our clients throughout Alberta are provided with the best defence possible.