Warrantless Seizure Under Section 489

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Seizure of Things Not Specified

Section 489 authorizes police officers to seize certain property. It specifically addresses the situation where police seek to seize property other than what is specified in the warrant.

Seizure of things not specified
489. (1) Every person who executes a warrant may seize, in addition to the things mentioned in the warrant, any thing that the person believes on reasonable grounds

(a) has been obtained by the commission of an offence against this or any other Act of Parliament;
(b) has been used in the commission of an offence against this or any other Act of Parliament; or
(c) will afford evidence in respect of an offence against this or any other Act of Parliament.

Seizure without warrant
(2) Every peace officer, and every public officer who has been appointed or designated to administer or enforce any federal or provincial law and whose duties include the enforcement of this or any other Act of Parliament, who is lawfully present in a place pursuant to a warrant or otherwise in the execution of duties may, without a warrant, seize any thing that the officer believes on reasonable grounds

(a) has been obtained by the commission of an offence against this or any other Act of Parliament;
(b) has been used in the commission of an offence against this or any other Act of Parliament; or
(c) will afford evidence in respect of an offence against this or any other Act of Parliament.

R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 489; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 72, c. 42 (4th Supp.), s. 3; 1993, c. 40, s. 16; 1997, c. 18, s. 48.


CCC

Under s. 489, a peace officer in lawful execution of their duty may seize anything without a warrant that they have reasonable ground believe that it was:[1]

  1. obtained by crime;
  2. used in a crime; or
  3. affords evidence of a crime.

The provision permits an officer who is executing a warrant to make a warrantless seizure of anything he believes on reasonable grounds "has been used in the commission of an offence".[2] The legal test for reasonable grounds to believe should be the same as that for Warrantless Arrests. It must involved "an objective basis for the belief which is based on compelling and credible information". It is "something more than mere suspicion, but less than the standard applicable in civil matters of proof on the balance of probabilities".[3]

All items that are seized must be reported to a justice of the peace pursuant to s. 489.1. The justice of the peace will grant a detention order for a period of time. The property must be returned on the expiration of the order unless the justice grants an extension under s. 490(1) or if charges are laid.

This section does not codify or incorporate any part of the common law doctrine of "plain view".[4] Not all the elements of the plainview doctrine need to be met to allow for seizure under s. 489(2).[5]

Section 489(2) does not authorize any search but it does have the effect of expanding seizure powers pursuant to a search warrant to include other materials.[6]

Section 489 permits the seizure of certain evidence, however, when dealing with evidence such as a cell phone, the phone may be seized but a warrant would be needed in order to search the contents of the phone.[7]

The power should not be used as a "carte blanche to embark on a search for whatever [the police] wish" nor can they seize "everything within reach" while executing a warrant.[8]

The purpose of s. 489(2) is the preservation of evidence.[9]

Section 489(2)(c) is a "self-contained provision". To rely upon it, the Crown must prove that "that the officer be lawfully placed and in execution of his duty, with a belief on reasonable and probable grounds that the seized items are evidence."[10]

Section 489 allows for the collection of evidence for a separate crime while executing a search based on an initial believed crime.[11] It does not require that the evidence discovered be related to the initial investigation.[12]

  1. R v Fawthrop, 2002 CanLII 45004 (ON CA) at para 23
  2. R v Bishop, 2013 BCSC 522 (CanLII) at para 179
    R v Sipes, 2011 BCSC 1763 (CanLII) at para 203
  3. see Mugesera v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2005 SCC 40 (CanLII), [2005] 2 SCR 100 at para 117
  4. R v Bottineau, 2011 ONCA 194 (CanLII)
    R v Le (T.D.), 2011 MBCA 83 (CanLII) - they are not "coextensive"
    R v R.M.J.T., 2014 MBCA 36 (CanLII)
    c.f. R v Boudreau-Fontaine, 2010 QCCA 1108 (CanLII), at para 50
    L’Espérance v R., 2011 QCCA 237 (CanLII) at para 36
  5. R v Frieburg (T.), 2013 MBCA 40 (CanLII) at para 67
  6. R v Bottineau, at para 74
  7. R v Little, 2009 CanLII 41212 (ON SC) at para 144
  8. see Little
  9. R v R.M.J.T., 2014 MBCA 36 (CanLII) at para 32
  10. R v Makhmudov, 2007 ABCA 248 (CanLII), at para 19
    see also Sipes at para 204
  11. R v Middleton, 2000 BCCA 660 (CanLII) - standard search warrant executed for theft of electricity. when grow op found, no need to get a second CDSA search warrant
  12. R.M.J.T.

History of s. 489

Section 489 was enacted in 1955 as s. 431 of the Criminal Code S.C. 1953-1954, c. 51. It previously read:[1]

Every person who executes a warrant issued under section 429 may seize, in addition to the things mentioned in the warrant, anything that on reasonable grounds he believes has been obtained by or has been used in the commission of an offence, and carry it before the justice who issued the warrant or some other justice for the same territorial division, to be dealt with in accordance with section 432.


  1. see R v Sipes, 2011 BCSC 1763 (CanLII) at para 192 onward

See Also