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When can the police subject juveniles to searches?

Being confronted by the police for any reason can be a rather stressful time, especially for juveniles. When alleged crimes are involved, many younger individuals may not necessarily understand their rights before, during or after an arrest. Sadly, there are instances when police officers in Ontario may take advantage of this and violate the rights of a young suspect.

While most police officers do their very best to serve and protect the public, there are still legal standards to which they must comply while doing their jobs. Would you know your rights when a police officer wants to search you?

When can police search you?

Police typically search suspects when they have reason to believe that an individual is a threat to him or herself or somebody else. The following situations may give police reason to search you:

  • When police arrest you -- Along with protecting your and the public's safety, police may search you if they suspect you carry evidence that you might destroy if they wait for a search warrant. They might want to search you for evidence of a crime such as shoplifting, and they may also want to search your car. The police may search your mobile phone -- but this typically only applies to more serious and violent crimes.
  • Should you give consent to a search? -- The police may ask for your consent to a search. If they claim you gave informed consent, it means that you understood the potential consequences that might follow the search and that you agreed to the police searching you. However, they must limit the search to what you included in your consent. If you give consent without limitations, the police may subsequently use whatever they find on you in any future case against you.
  • What are safety searches? -- Police may pat you down if they have a reasonable suspicion of your connection with a crime and they want to determine whether you have a weapon that might threaten their safety or that of others. Similarly, police may do safety searches at public facilities to eliminate threats, such as at facilities where electricity is generated, nuclear plants or court proceedings.
  • Can police strip search you? -- These are not routine procedures, and they typically take place after a pat-down search leaves police with reason to believe you have a weapon or other evidence. This kind of search should only occur at a police station, except if valid reasons for urgency exist. Police may not order you to strip in the presence of a person of the opposite sex, and they might ask your permission to do such a search -- in which case your best option may be to ask to speak to your lawyer.

You are entitled to object to any search, and if you believe that the police want to subject you to an illegal search or that they do not have valid reasons to search you, you can insist on speaking to a lawyer. An experienced lawyer can analyze the grounds on which the police want to search you, ensure your rights are protected and focus on your best interests when devising a criminal defence strategy against any charges you end up facing.

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