Warrantless Entry into Dwellings in Exigent Circumstances
Generally, a warrantless entry into a private residence is not permitted absent statutory authorization.
A warrantless entry into a private dwelling (sometimes called the Godoy exception) is permitted for the purpose of protecting or assisting a person in distress. This is a limited and extraordinary exception to the rule against privacy in the home.
A warrantless entry is further permitted when it falls into the common law doctrine of "hot pursuit".
Sections between 529 to 529.5 were added post-1997 Feeney ruling creating statutory authority to enter a dwelling:
Authority to enter dwelling without warrant
529.3 (1) Without limiting or restricting any power a peace officer may have to enter a dwelling-house under this or any other Act or law, the peace officer may enter the dwelling-house for the purpose of arresting or apprehending a person, without a warrant referred to in section 529 or 529.1 authorizing the entry, if the peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is present in the dwelling-house, and the conditions for obtaining a warrant under section 529.1 exist but by reason of exigent circumstances it would be impracticable to obtain a warrant.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), exigent circumstances include circumstances in which the peace officer
- (a) has reasonable grounds to suspect that entry into the dwelling-house is necessary to prevent imminent bodily harm or death to any person; or
- (b) has reasonable grounds to believe that evidence relating to the commission of an indictable offence is present in the dwelling-house and that entry into the dwelling-house is necessary to prevent the imminent loss or imminent destruction of the evidence.
1997, c. 39, s. 2.
Section 529.3 "relieves against the requirement for a warrant to arrest where exigent circumstances make it impractical to obtain one."
Exigent circumstances are "generally found to exist where the police have reasonable grounds to be concerned that prior announcement would: (i) expose those executing the warrant to harm and/or (ii) result in loss or destruction of evidence and/or (iii) expose the occupants to harm."
Searches of surrounding property is treated much in the same way as residences themselves. The police cannot search the perimeter of a residence without a warrant.
On a warrantless entry into a residence the courts should look at factors including:
- what information did the officers have?
- what information could they infer?
- what were their alternate courses of action?
- what was the reasonableness of the action they took?
Exigency circumstances permitting warrantless entry into house will permit a full search of the residence for the purpose of satisfying that they have accounted for all residents. They do not need to rely solely on the reporting of the other people in the house.  The search however should be "cursory and noninvasive".
Search of a rental room even with the consent of the building owner will generally require a warrant.
R v Silveira,  2 SCR 297, 1995 CanLII 89 (SCC), at paras 49
R v Godoy  1 SCR 311, 1999 CanLII 709
- R v Wilhelm, 2014 ONCA 1637 (*no link)at para 106
- R v Feeney, 1997 CanLII 342 (SCC),  2 SCR 13
- R v Knelsen, 2012 MBQB 242 (CanLII)
R v DeWolfe 2007 NSCA 79 (CanLII), (2007), 222 CCC (3d) 491
R v Knelsen, 2012 MBQB 242 (CanLII) (Exigent circumstances "include circumstances in which the police officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that entry is necessary to prevent imminent bodily harm or death to any person.")
- R v Kokesch,  3 SCR 3, 1990 CanLII 55 (SCC)
- R v Jamieson, 2002 BCCA 411 (CanLII) at para 24
R v Depace, 2014 ONCA 519 (CanLII)
- R v Kenny (1992) 52 OAC 70(*no link)
911 Phone Calls
A 911 call suggests an emergency, and when made, is considered "pressing and immediate" circumstances to permit warrantless entry. It is often a "distress call".
Upon responding to a 911 call, the police "have authority to investigate" the purpose for the call. This includes the authority to "locate the caller and determine his or her reasons for making the call", but does not include any other intrusions in the dwelling house without "further permission".
Typical reasons for 911 call relate to the caller seeking protection from domestic violence or aid after violence has occurred. Sometimes the reasons are not clear at the time of the call due to lack of information or a dropped call.
Where police respond to a dropped 911 call they can enter the home if they have reasonable grounds to believe an offence has been committed. This even where no evidence of an ongoing crime exists.
Forced entry into a dwelling-house is permitted where necessary to ensure the "health and safety" of individuals inside. This can be established when the caller is calling from within the residence or is a neighbour.
There must be a need to protect "life and safety" such that there is a "threat to life or limb".
Whether the entry or specific actions were justified will depend on the facts of the particular case.
Where the 911 caller tries to cancel the initial emergency call, the police are entitled to consider whether the cancellation was genuine or by force. However, the police should consider other options, including interviewing the caller outside of the residence, before considering the option of entry into the dwelling. If the caller refused, then it may be inferred that she is under duress to stay.
R v Godoy,  1 SCR 311, 1999 CanLII 709 at paras 16, 19, 22
Godoy at paras 22, 23, 28
R v Wilhelm, 2014 ONCA 1637 (*no link) at para 106
Godoy at paras 19, 21, 23, 28
eg. see R v Jones, 2013 BCCA 345 (CanLII) at para 17
Godoy at para 16, 19 - dropped call
- R v Godoy  1 SCR 311, 1999 CanLII 709
R v Larson, 2011 BCCA 454 (CanLII) at paras 19 to 26
Godoy at para 22
Nicholls, 1999 CanLII 2750 (ON CA) at para 12
Godoy at para 22
Nicholls at para 12
Godoy at para 22, 23, 28
R v Godoy at para 22
Jones at para 42
- R v Timmons, 2011 NSCA 39 (CanLII)
In urgent circumstance police may enter into an apartment to ensure public safety by securing weapons.
It may also be justified in order to search for injured persons in a illegal drug lab.
Or in order to safely accompany a female victim of domestic violence into a residence to secure her personal things.
Entry into a dwelling due to "feelings of humanity and goodwill" will not be sufficient.
R v Golub (1997), 117 CCC (3d) 193 (Ont. C.A.), 1997 CanLII 6316 (ON CA), -- applying Feeney
R v Farrah, 2011 MBCA 49 (CanLII)
R v Stenning, 1970 CanLII 12 (SCC),  SCR 631 - applying the Waterfield test
see also s. 117.02
- R v Jamieson, 2002 BCCA 411 (CanLII)
- R v Sanderson (2003), 174 CCC (3d) 289 (Ont. C.A.), 2003 CanLII 20263 (ON CA)
R v Tunbridge (1971), 3 CCC (2d) 303 (BCCA)(*no link)
Hot Pursuit Exception
At common law, the doctrine of hot pursuit permits a peace officer "to enter a private premises to make an arrest in hot pursuit".
A "hot pursuit" requires a "fresh pursuit" that is a "continuous pursuit conducted with reasonable diligence, so that pursuit and capture along with the commission of the offence may be considered as forming part of a single transaction."
Before the doctrine applies, the police must "already have the power and grounds to arrest without a warrant" before entering the residence.
However, the police officer does not have to have personal knowledge to form the grounds. An officer continuing the pursuit from another officer can be sufficient.
This exception is considered "narrow" and presumes the police are "literally at the heels of a suspect at the moment the suspect enters a dwelling-house"
- R v Macooh, 1993 CanLII 107 (SCC),  2 SCR 802 at para 13
Macooh at para 24
see also R v Hope, 2007 NSCA 103 (CanLII),  NSJ No. 433 (C.A.), at para 30
R v Clarke, 2005 CanLII 15452 (ON CA),  O.J. No. 1825 (C.A.), at para 29
- see R v Van Puyenbroek 2007 ONCA 824 (CanLII) at para 21
- see also R v Haglof, 2000 BCCA 604 (CanLII), 149 CCC (3d) 248 and Van Puyenbroek
- Van Puyenbroek