There are many situations in which the police have the right to enter private property. Whether the police need a search warrant depends on the circumstances. Below are situations in which the police enter the premises with or without a search warrant.
You can report police misconduct if the police enter your premises without an order or permit under unjustified circumstances. If police collect evidence during an illegal search and are subsequently charged with a crime, the evidence may be improperly obtained and therefore not admissible in criminal proceedings.
When can police enter premises?
Under the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002, police may enter private property in the following circumstances:
In an emergency (Section 9)
Police may enter the premises if there is a breach of the peace and entry is necessary to stop or prevent a breach of the peace. It can also occur when a person sustains or is about to suffer serious personal injury.
However, if the police enter the premises under this provision, they may remain there only as reasonably necessary under the circumstances.
An example of when this power may be relied upon is in a serious domestic violence situation.
To arrest or detain someone or execute a warrant (Section 10)
Police may enter the premises for arrest, detention, or execution of an arrest warrant if the police have reasonable grounds to believe that the person is in the home.
To search and seize (with a warrant) (Section 47A)
If ordered, the police may enter and search the premises, but only to the extent specified in the order. In certain circumstances, police can be issued warrants to search premises without the knowledge of squatters. In this case, the police can hide what they did during the search.
If the warrant is not a warrant, the police must provide the homeowner with a “squatter notice” detailing the warrant. If the resident wishes to see the actual arrest warrant, this document must also be presented. If the occupants refuse police entry after viewing these documents, they may be charged with crimes such as resisting the police.
Police may seize items listed in search warrants and any other items they reasonably believe are related to criminal offences. (§49)
Police may not execute a search warrant at night unless the search warrant states that it may be executed after 9:00 p.m. or before 6:00 a.m.
Can police use force to enter premises?
If the police have a search warrant, they can use “reasonable force” to break in. How much force is appropriate depends on the situation. If the door is left open, it’s not wise to damage anything to get in. If the door is locked and must be forced open for access, this is suitable when no other means of access are available. You’ll have to barricade the door and inflict significant damage to get in if you have no other choice. If the police do not have a search warrant, they may, if reasonable, force entry into the premises. For example, if a serious violent crime has been committed, the police can justify using force to break in to end the situation.
What if police enter unlawfully?
If the police enter your property without a search warrant under unjustified circumstances, you can file a police misconduct report.
If the police obtain evidence from an illegal search, they may be able to exclude that evidence from the lawsuit against you. The Evidence Act holds police accountable for their actions and gives courts the power to exclude illegally obtained evidence from trials in order to protect civil liberties. This is done in a procedure called a voir dire, which is separate from a trial or hearing.
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