Seizure of Firearms

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General Principles

Firearms can be seized by one of several methods:

  • general warrantless seizure powers under s. 489;
  • warrant seizure powers under s. 487;
  • exigent seizure powers when firearm believed to be involved in an offence under s. 117.02;
  • seizure from a person without documentation under s. 117.03; and
  • seizure on belief of danger to self or public (no warrant if exigent) under s. 117.04.

Exigent Circumstances Under s. 117.02

Under s.117.02, an officer believes that a firearm or related item[1] "was used in the commission of an offence" or where there was, or is ongoing, an offence where the subject-matter is a firearm or related item[2] and the officer believes the item "is likely to be found on a person, in a vehicle or in any place or premises other than a dwelling-house", then the officer may search the premises or person without a warrant, so long as it under exigent circumstances where it "would not be practicable to obtain a warrant".[3]

Section 117.02 can authorize the warrantless search of a bag that they are told contains a loaded handgun in exigent circumstances.[4]

  1. a prohibited device, any ammunition, any prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance
  2. firearm, an imitation firearm, a cross-bow, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance
  3. see also s 487, 487.11
  4. R v Narayan, 2007 BCCA 429 (CanLII)

Failure to Produce Authorization

Under s. 117.03, where a person is found in possession of a firearm or related items and cannot produce the appropriate documents authorizing them to possess it, an officer may seize the items. If the proper documentation is produced within 14 days, the officer must return the items seized. If 14 days pass without producing the authorization, the officer may apply to the court to have the firearm forfeited.

Danger to Self or Public

Under s.117.04, an officer may seize a firearm from someone in lawful possession of it where the officer believes he may pose a danger to themselves or the public. A warrant is required unless there are exigent circumstances such that "by reason of a possible danger to the safety of that person or any other person, it would not be practicable to obtain a warrant".(s. 117.04(2))

Under s.117.05, the officer may apply to forfeit the firearm after 30 days where it can be established that forfeiture is in the "interests of the safety of the person". (see Forfeiture Orders)

See Also