Call now:
(866) 761-7077

When Can Police Lawfully Search My Vehicle?

In Canada, there are specific laws that govern when and under what circumstances police can stop and search your vehicle. The failure of police to follow these guidelines or overstep their authority may constitute a violation of Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and may mean that any incriminating evidence they find in such a search will not be allowed to be used against you in court.

Police May Not Search Your Car or Trunk During a Routine Stop Without Reasonable Grounds

Under Canadian law, police can generally pull over a driver under the following circumstances:

  • To check your sobriety;
  • To determine whether you have a legitimate driver’s licence;
  • To check if the car is properly registered and insured; and
  • To see if the car is in good working order.

Police don’t need to show a reasonable suspicion to pull you over for these reasons, however, they cannot use this routine check as a reason to stop you for the sole purpose of intimidating or harassing you if you are otherwise obeying the law. Further, such a stop can’t be used to obtain information about the passengers in the vehicle or justify a search of your vehicle without reasonable grounds.

Police Can Search Your Car Without A Warrant If They Have Reasonable and Probable Grounds.

On the other hand, police can search your car during routine traffic stops (including sobriety stops) if they have “reasonable” and “probable” cause to do so.

Case law has determined that police may conduct “warrantless searches” of a vehicle where the following factors exist:

  • The vehicle contains illegal items;
  • Waiting to get a warrant may lead to destruction of the evidence; and
  • An offence has been, is being, or is about to be committed and that a search will disclose evidence relevant to that offence.

The interpretation of what is “reasonable” and “probable” has been subject to significant scrutiny by the courts. Police searches of your car without reasonable grounds may violate your Charter rights, leading courts to toss out all evidence collected pursuant to that search.

Police May Search Your Car If They Have a Search Warrant

Police may also search your vehicle if they have already obtained a search warrant. In these situations, the police have previously established reasonable and probable grounds for the search.

Police May Search Your Car if You Give Them Permission

In certain situations, police may request to conduct a search of your vehicle where they don’t otherwise have the authority to do so – such as during a routine stop to check your licence and registration.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defence Lawyer If Your Vehicle Has Been Searched

Any time you have been detained by police and they conduct a search of your vehicle, it’s a good idea to speak to an experienced criminal defence lawyer right away. By successfully challenging a search of your vehicle, it may be possible to get any improperly collected evidence against you thrown out. Many times, this means that any charges against you may be dismissed or reduced.


Since 1996, the law firm of Mitch Engel, Barrister & Solicitor has been providing clients throughout the Oshawa, Brampton, and Mississauga areas with top-level criminal defence representation, including protecting the rights of clients from unreasonable searches. Mitch Engel understands what acceptable police conduct is and will fight to protect you against actions that violate your rights. With an exclusive focus on criminal defence, he has keen insight into successful defence strategies and is passionate about helping his clients achieve the best possible resolution to their matters. Call Mitch Engel at <ahref=”tel:1-866-761-7077″>(866) 761-7077 to get the legal advice you need to reclaim your life.


The materials provided on this site are for information purposes only. These materials constitute general information relating to areas of law familiar to our firm lawyers. They do NOT constitute legal advice or other professional advice and you may not rely on the contents of this website as such.

Mitch Engel Barrister & Solicitor
2 County Court Blvd Suite 400 Brampton, ON L6W 3W8
Phone: (866) 761-7077 URL of Map