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Training role-play #8 - Search & seizure

Search and seizure (15-20 minutes)

Police search role play:

Two or more police arrive at the front door of your office for a noise complaint.

Go out onto the sidewalk, speak to them on public property they have no right to come onto private property without consent unless:

  • they have reasonable grounds to believe a crime is in progress
  • they are in hot pursuit of a suspect/escapee, or
  • they have a search warrant.

If they have a search warrant, ask to see it as well as their identification write down names and badge numbers, and call your lawyer as soon as possible. Make it clear that you do not consent to the search, but do not interfere with the search (you could be charged with obstruction). Keep a list of anything they take with them or damage.

The police do not have the right to search you or take your stuff unless:

  • you are under arrest
  • they have a search warrant, or
  • they have reasonable grounds to believe you have an illegal weapon or narcotics in your possession (the way you look, talk or dress and the company you keep are NOT reasonable grounds for a search).

Always refuse to give consent to a search make it clear to the police and to any witnesses that you are refusing. If the police believe they have the right to search you, they will do it anyway, but your refusal may make anything they find inadmissible and may allow you to pursue sanctions against the officers for illegal search and seizure.

Although you should always refuse a search (even if you think it might be lawful), it is rarely a good idea to physically resist a search. You technically have the right to defend yourself against unlawful searches, but police have the right to use necessary force to make you comply with a search if they have reasonable grounds to believe it is lawful. It is usually safer to let the police search you and then fight about this in court.

In particular when it comes strip searches, you have the right to be searched by an officer of the same sex, and in relative privacy. Strip searches should not be used as a form of intimidation or punishment.