Lawsuit Launched Against OPP: Do The Police Need Warrants Before Entering Private Property?

A lawyer in Toronto says that the courts are the ones who have the say on whether or not police have the authority to enter private property without a warrant, and that the decision isn’t up to the OPP alone. An application has been filed by John Fitzmaurice against the Bracebridge OPP Inspector Ed Medved, OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes, the District Municipality of Muskoka, and the Attorneys General of Ontario and Canada, along with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

The Criminal Lawyer’s Association is also going to be getting involved as well. Fitzmaurice is looking to have the ending result be for a judge to explicitly dictate whether or not the Bracebridge police are able to go onto private property without a warrant. “What I am arguing in this application is that a practice police are involved in is illegal,… Police and the public need to know if it is unlawful.” said Fitzmaurice. The issues stem from a previous legal case that Fitzmaurice was involved in where the defendants were facing cannabis-related charges for possession and production. It was revealed in court that the police likely crossed a private property line and went onto the defendants property without having search warrants or permission to do so, and they also allegedly used evidence that was mostly gathered illegally.

It was eventually ruled in 2014 by Judge Crawford that the police had infringed upon the defendants Charter rights and the cannabis that was seized was excluded from evidence. Judge Crawford also stated that it was worrisome that the police treat private-property rights in such a loose fashion and he cautioned for the court to disassociate itself from the seemingly illegal common police practices. Alan Young, director of the Innocence Project at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School says that it is “borderline shocking” that any public official would suggest that the police can go onto private property without a warrant, which has long been a standing tradition and requirement within Canada.

It will be interesting to see how the case unfolds and how the courts deal with upholding or deteriorating private property rights.