Certain provincial vehicle Acts permit an officer to conduct an inventory search of a vehicle that is being impounded. This also applies where a vehicle is being seized due to being parked in an unsafe location.
The rationale for the power to do an inventory does not flow from the nature of the investigation but rather is based on the interests of:
- person who owns the property and wishes the police to safeguard the property while it is in police custody;
- public safety who are concerned contraband being held by police or in authorized storage facilities;
- police desire to protect against civil liability for loss or damage to property found in the vehicle.
A decision on the part of police to have a vehicle towed does not necessarily always justify an inventory search. The police should turn their mind to other options besides impounding the vehicle.
Contents of Bags
The power to conduct inventory searches of vehicles may also permits the opening and examining of the contents of bags found within the vehicle.
Inventory searches do not extent to situations where an officer is assisting a sheriff's officer in executing an eviction order, such that bags are opened for examination.
e.g. Highway Traffic Act (ON), s. 172
R v Russell, 2017 BCPC 60 (CanLII) - re s. 188 of BC Motor Vehicle Act
R v Cooper, 2016 BCPC 259 (CanLII) at para 16
R v Wint, (2009) 2009 ONCA 52 (CanLII), 93 O.R. 514 (Ont.C.A.)
R v Nicolosi (1998) 1998 CanLII 2006 (ON CA), 127 CCC (3d) 176 (Ont.C.A.)
R v Ellis, 2013 ONSC 1494 (CanLII)
R v Harflett, 2016 ONCA 248 (CanLII)
- e.g. R v Martin, 2012 ONSC 2298(*no CanLII links)
- R v Wint, 2009 ONCA 52 (CanLII)
- R v Stevens, 2011 ONCA 504 (CanLII)