In Canada the general rule of thumb for the police to search for example, your home, your vehicle, is that they need a search warrant. A search warrant is basically a document, you go to the Justice of the Peace of a Judge there’s an affidavit setting out grounds to believe there’s items in your home that are illegal or your vehicle for example or your cell phone or whatever type of good you own basically to search. It has to be set out that there are reasonable and probable grounds. For example, an informant knows that you have cocaine in your home and they’ve done some surveillance of your home that shows that too from the outside people coming and going.
What are some exceptions to that? Well one of the main exceptions is what’s called a plain view doctrine. This is the terminology in the United States as well. What does plain view doctrine mean? Well in a nutshell, the police come to your home. They just want to talk to you, want to ask you a question and your neighbour was complaining. They knock on the door. You open your door and there’s marihuana or cocaine on the table in plain view of the police. Clearly now they don’t need a search warrant, they can come into your home and arrest you and go through a search process, at least in the immediate vicinity if not the home.
So that’s the plain view doctrine. It applies to motor vehicles as well. You come into a RIDE program the police smell an odour of alcohol or I should say marihuana in your vehicle, or alcohol too, gives them some grounds to search or they see that actual drug there, a crackpipe. Plain view doctrine applies there. They don’t need a search warrant. So, there’s a couple of exceptions to when the police do not need a search warrant and clearly these are appropriate circumstances where they don’t need that particular search warrant in Canada.