The police require a search warrant in order to search your home, office, car, computer, mobile telephone, smartphone or other dwelling or area where you could expect privacy. Your home is your castle where you have an expectation of privacy and the Courts are serious about enforcing that right.
There are cases however, where the police do not require a warrant to enter your home or search your computer or mobile telephone or smartphone. Those circumstances involve cases where there is an emergency or when the police have reason to believe that a criminal offence was just committed, is about to be committed, or is currently being committed inside your home. In these cases, a warrant is not necessarily required for entry or search. However, every case is different. If the police are standing at your door requesting entry, or already inside your home, demand to see a search warrant and call a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.
When it comes to your smart phone, if the police believe that there is information or other evidence that is tied to an ongoing criminal offence they could potentially search the phone immediately without obtaining a warrant. The issue about smart phone searches is far more complicated and a new area of criminal law as we enter the digital age. It appears that the courts have been more demanding of search warrants in mobile phone searches, however, every case is different. If the situation is one of exigent circumstances where a warrant cannot reasonably be obtained and the evidence is required on an urgent basis (i.e., safety is at risk), a cursory, warrantless search may be permitted by the police. On the other hand, if no exigent circumstances exist and there is no immediate safety concerns the courts would likely rule that a warrant is/was required. However, even in cases of police breaches of one’s s.8 Charter rights to be free from warrantless search or seizure, the courts always conduct a test weighing society’s interests to have evidence admitted and the matter tried on its merits as opposed to excluding evidence in favor of the accused. There is always this balancing act when it comes to excluding evidence. If the police have seized your computer or mobile smartphone, contact a criminal lawyer immediately to discuss your case.