Consent Search

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General Principles

A search by consent is one form of warrantless search. A search conducted with valid consent is lawful.[1]

Valid consent exists where the following is present:[2]

  1. There was a consent, either express or implied;
  2. The consenting party has the authority to give the consent;
  3. Consent was voluntary and not the product of police oppression, coercion or other external conduct negating freedom to choose not to consent;
  4. The consenting party knew of the nature of the police conduct to which he or she was being asked to consent;
  5. The consenting party knew they had the ability to refuse the search;
  6. The consenting party was aware of the potential consequences of giving the consent, including a general understanding of the jeopardy resulting from the police conduct about which the consent was being sought.

For consent to be valid it must be voluntary and informed. Voluntary search requires that the consent to be given without coercion.[3]

Informed consent
Informed consent to a search requires the accused to be aware of the right to refuse the search and the consequences of consenting to the search.[4]The party expressing "consent must be possessed of the requisite informational foundation for a true relinquishment of the right. A right to choose requires not only the volition to prefer one option over another, but also sufficient available information to make the preference meaningful.”[5]

Notice of Right to Refuse
The cases are divided on whether the police need to give clear instructions on the right to refuse. [6] Courts opposed to the requirement state that the standard of informed consent is less than the informational component of s. 10(b). The police need not tell the accused of the right to refuse consent. However, a failure to do so may result in a lack of informed consent.[7]

The Crown must establish that the accused right to be searched was waived clearly and unequivocally.[8] However, where the accused is given access to counsel there is a presumption of informed consent unless the accused shows otherwise.[9]

Effect of Consent
Once consent is given there is no future expectation of privacy.[10]

invalidating consent
A threat to get a warrant when the officer knows there is no grounds to do so can invalidate consent to search.[11] However, it is not necessary the police ever let the accused know that there is no grounds to search the item for which consent is sought.[12]

Coercion will exist where there are threats made should the accused refuse to give consent.[13]

The burden is upon the Crown to prove consent on a balance of probabilities.[14]

  1. R v Chang, 2003 ABCA 293 (CanLII) at para 28
  2. R v Wills, 1992 CanLII 2780 (ON CA), (1992), 70 CCC (3d) 529 at 69
    R v Cooper, 2011 ABQB 17 (CanLII) at paras 35-41
    R v Borden 1994 CanLII 63, [1994] 3 SCR 145
    R v Rutten, 2006 SKCA 17 (CanLII) at para 35
  3. R v Bergauer-Free 2009 ONCA 610 (CanLII) at para 57
    See also R v Goldman, 1979 CanLII 60 (SCC), [1980] 1 SCR 976 at p. 1005
  4. R v Wills (1992), 12 C.R. (4th) 58 at 78 (Ont. C.A.), 1992 CanLII 2780
    R v Borden 1994 CanLII 63 (S.C.C.), (1994), 33 C.R. (4th) 147 at 158
    R v S.S., 2008 ONCA 578 (CanLII) at paras 48, 52
    c.f. R v Lupien, 1995 CanLII 5211 (QC CA), (1995) 68 QAC 253 (CA)
    R v Blackstock, 1997 CanLII 14495 (ON CA), (1997) 10 CR 5th 385 (ONCA)
    US v Drayton 536 US 194 (2002) - police need not inform of right as long as there was no coercion, intimidation, or confrontation
  5. R v Borden, 1994 CanLII 63 (SCC), [1994] 3 SCR 145
  6. R v Rutten 2006 SKCA 17 (CanLII) at paras 39 to 44, the court stated that permission to enter to search a dwelling must include information on the person's right to refuse
  7. R v Lewis (1998) 122 CCC 3d 481 (ONCA), 1998 CanLII 7116 (ON CA)
  8. R v Collins, 1987 CanLII 84 (SCC), [1987] 1 SCR 265
  9. R v Williams, 1992 CanLII 295 (BC SC), (1992) 76 CCC 385 (BCSC)
    R v Deprez (1994) 95 CCC 29 (MBCA)(*no CanLII links)
  10. R v Arp [1998] 3 SCR 339, 1998 CanLII 769 (SCC) at 90
  11. R v O’Connor, 2002 CanLII 3540 (ON CA) at paras 74, 75
  12. Connor at para 75
  13. R v Bergauer-Free, 2009 ONCA 610 (CanLII) - police threaten to bring in canine unit should consent be refused. This was found to be "colorably lawful coercion"
  14. R v Wills, at p. 353
    R v Colson, 2008 ONCA 21 (CanLII), 88 O.R. (3d) 752, at para 23 leave denied [2008] S.C.C.A. No. 101
    Simon, 2008 ONCA 578 (CanLII) at para 49
    Rutten, at para 36

Consent to Enter Residence to Arrest

Consent entry for the purpose of arrest is an exception to the rule from R v Feeney, 1997 CanLII 342 (SCC) requiring a "Feeney warrant" to enter a residence for arrest.[1]

When executing a warrant, police may enter a premises by consent where there exists:[2]

  1. it must be given by someone who has a privacy interest in the premises
  2. the consent must be an informed one
  1. Tymkin v Ewatski et al., 2014 MBCA 4 (CanLII)
  2. R v R.M.J.T., 2014 MBCA 36 (CanLII), at para 46
    Tymkin v Ewatski at para 89

Consent to Enter Residence to Search

Consent to search a residence is guided by the "reasonable expectation of privacy".[1] A person who does not possess an expectation of privacy may not consent to a search.[2]

The relationship between the consenter and the suspect is not determinative.[3]

A parent can consent to a search of a child's portion of a residence as long as there were no restrictions on the parent's access to the zone of privacy.[4]

  1. R v RMJT, 2014 MBCA 36 (CanLII), at para 48
  2. RMJT at para 48
  3. RMJT at para 48
  4. RMJT at para 48

Implied Licence

The "occupier of a dwelling gives implied licence to any member of the public, including a police officer, on legitimate business to come on to the property” [1] The licence "ends at the door of the dwelling."[2] Privacy rights are waived unless there is a clear expression of intent rebutting this.[3]

This consent extends only insofar as it permits a person to conveniently communicate with the occupant and the activities reasonably associated with this purpose.[4] It does not extent to police approaching and knocking at the door for the purpose of collecting evidence against the occupant.[5]

Entering on a person's driveway, where in plainview of the public will be included in the licence.[6] But this was found impermissible for an attached garage.[7]

A business open to the public will also provide a similar licence for police to enter.[8]

Consent to enter a home does not include a blanket right to search the whole house including the basement.[9]

What constitutes implied licence "must be analyzed in [its] context".[10]

When "an invitee’s purpose changes from lawful to unlawful while on the premises, they become a trespasser.”[11]

  1. R v Evans, [1996] 1 SCR 8, 1996 CanLII 248 at para 13 , citing R v Tricker 1995 CanLII 1268 (ON CA), (1995), 21 O.R. (3d) 575, at p. 579
    See also Plain View Search and Seizure
  2. Tricker at para 12
  3. Evans at 13
  4. R v Evans at para 15
  5. R v Evans at para 16, 18, 20, 21
  6. R v Lotozky, 2006 CanLII 21041 (ON CA), (2006), 210 CCC (3d) 509 - police observed impaired driver exiting his car in the driveway
  7. R v Noerenberg, 1997 CanLII 12354 (ON SC), [1997] O.J. No. 4628 (Ont. Gen. Div.)
    R v Maciel, 2003 CanLII 32396 (ON CA), (2003), 33 M.V.R. (4th) 152 - attached garage different from driveway
    R v Clements, 2007 ABPC 220 (CanLII), [2007] A.J. No. 1024 (ABPC)
    See also R v Belnavis, [1997] 3 SCR 341, 1997 CanLII 320 (SCC) - stating attached garage including in privacy of home
  8. R v Fitt, 1995 CanLII 4342 (NS CA) aff'd [1996] 1 SCR 70, 1996 CanLII 251 (SCC)
    R v Spindloe, 2001 SKCA 58 (CanLII)
  9. R v Smith, 1998 ABCA 418 (CanLII), (1998), 128 CCC (3d) 62 (ABCA)
  10. R v Evans
  11. R v Nobile (2006), 75 W.C.B. (2d) 581 (Ont. S.C.)(*no CanLII links) , at para 53

Authority to Consent and Third Party Consent

A third party cannot consent or waive a suspect's rights under s. 8 of the Charter.[1]

The main question is whether the suspect "would not reasonably expect another person to be able to authorize a search" in which case that other person cannot consent.[2]

Third party consent is not to be considered as a form of Charter waiver of the suspect, but rather informs the analysis of whether there was an intrusion on the reasonable expectations of the suspect.[3]

Third party consent by a wife or parent requires that the police also have diffident grounds to get a search warrant at the time.[4]

Mistaken Belief in Authority
For all searches the police must have a subjective belief that they have consent to conduct the search and it must be an objectively reasonable belief in the circumstances. Where the police wrongly relied upon consent of a third party, the reasonableness of their belief will go to the section 24(2) analysis.[5]

Issues of consent seizure will most often be dealt with by way of warrantless seizure under s. 489.[6]

  1. Reeves, 2017 ONCA 365 (CanLII) at para 42 ("Consent must also come from the right person. The person who consents must be the person whose rights are engaged. Someone else cannot waive your s. 8 rights for you.")
    R v Cole, 2012 SCC 53 (CanLII)
  2. Reeves, ibid. at para 47 citing Search and Seizure Law in Canada
  3. Reeves, ibid. at para 49
  4. R v Barrett, [1995] O.J. No. 920 (Ont. C.J.)(*no CanLII links)
  5. R v DiPalma, 2008 BCCA 342 (CanLII)
  6. R v RMJT, 2014 MBCA 36 (CanLII) at para 29

Joint Residency

An "authorized occupant" of a residence may give consent to a search.[1] This will usually include the homeowner. [2] However, consent is generally limited to common areas of the house, but not the "private areas of another resident, such as his or her bedroom or dresser".[3]

A parent of a suspect can usually consent to searches of the familial home where the suspect "does not expect restrictions on the access of others to those spaces".[4]

A landlord or neighbour does not constitute an "authorized occupant".[5]

Guests can have the authority to consent to a search of a home, however, the authorization can be revoked by the homeowner.[6]

The seizure of property "under mistaken authority is not necessarily fatal where authority otherwise exits".[7]

Consent of Accused's Parents
There will not necessarily be a violation of s. 8 where a parent consented to the search of the youth's bedroom.[8] Parents who exercise control over a child's room or property may remove any expectation of privacy.[9]

  1. R v Duarte (1987) 38 CCC (3d) 1 (ONCA), 1987 CanLII 175 (ON CA), at p. 11
    R v Currie 2008 ABCA 374 (CanLII) - resident gave consent to search house containing items of non-resident accused
  2. R v Smith 1998 ABCA 418 (CanLII) at para 5
  3. R v Reeves, 2017 ONCA 365 (CanLII) at para 43
  4. Reeves, ibid. at para 47
  5. R v Mercer, 1992 CanLII 7729 (ON CA), (1992) 70 CCC 180 (ONCA) - landlord
    R v Blinch (1993) 83 CCC 3d 158 (BCCA), 1993 CanLII 1433 (BC CA)
  6. R v Thomas 1991 CanLII 2736 (NL CA) aff'd at SCC
  7. R v R.M.J.T., 2014 MBCA 36 (CanLII) at para 64
  8. R v F.(D.M.), 1999 ABCA 267 (CanLII), (1999), 139 CCC (3d) 144 (Alta.C.A.),
    R v Figuerora [2002] O.J. No. 3138 (Ont. S.C.J.)(*no CanLII links)
    R v Scheck, 2002 BCSC 1046 (CanLII), [2002] BCJ No. 1671 (B.C.S.C.)
  9. F(DM), supra


Police may seize a hard drive where a computer repair technician has been given authority to examine the contents of the hard drive and finds illegal images.[1] The computer repair technician is not a agent of the state in calling the police.[2]

Joint interest in a thing such as a computer can permit one of the joint owners to give consent to search it.[3] However, in the case of an estranged husband, the ex-wife cannot consent to a search.[4]

Employer Consent
An employer cannot provide consent to intrude on the expectation of privacy of an employee.[5]

  1. R c Piette, 2009 QCCQ 14499 (CanLII)
    R v Winchester, 2010 ONSC 652 (CanLII)
  2. Winchester, ibid.
  3. R v Pommer, 2008 BCSC 423 (CanLII) - wife consenting to search of husband's property
  4. R v Libby, 2008 NBQB 36 (CanLII)
  5. R v Cole, at paras 74 to 79

Mandatory Consent

A court order, such as a probation order, can in certain circumstances require an offender to consent to random searches.[1]

  1. R v Unruh, 2012 SKCA 72 (CanLII)

Consent by Organizations Holding Personal Information

Privacy of personal information within private companies is governed by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).

Section 7(3) permits the disclosure of personal information without the subject's knowledge or consent:

Disclosure without knowledge or consent
(3) For the purpose of clause 4.3 of Schedule 1, and despite the note that accompanies that clause, an organization may disclose personal information without the knowledge or consent of the individual only if the disclosure is

(c.1) made to a government institution or part of a government institution that has made a request for the information, identified its lawful authority to obtain the information and indicated that
(i) it suspects that the information relates to national security, the defence of Canada or the conduct of international affairs,
(ii) the disclosure is requested for the purpose of enforcing any law of Canada, a province or a foreign jurisdiction, carrying out an investigation relating to the enforcement of any such law or gathering intelligence for the purpose of enforcing any such law, or
(iii) the disclosure is requested for the purpose of administering any law of Canada or a province;


(d) made on the initiative of the organization to an investigative body, a government institution or a part of a government institution and the organization
(i) has reasonable grounds to believe that the information relates to a breach of an agreement or a contravention of the laws of Canada, a province or a foreign jurisdiction that has been, is being or is about to be committed, or
(ii) suspects that the information relates to national security, the defence of Canada or the conduct of international affairs;


(h.2) made by an investigative body and the disclosure is reasonable for purposes related to investigating a breach of an agreement or a contravention of the laws of Canada or a province; ...


Under this section a peace officer may make a Law Enforcement Request (LER) requesting particular information of an accused person without their consent. A proper LER should identify the person requesting the information, what information is being requested, the purpose of the request for the information (presumably to obtain evidence to an offence). The organization is permitted but not required to provide the information requested.

Related: Disclosure

See Also