Can my house/premises be searched, and on what grounds?

Except in limited circumstances, a search warrant is required to search premises. This is because as much as possible the law protects the sanctity of a home. Generally, for the premises to be searched, a search warrant must be obtained by the police. However, where a person to be arrested under a warrant of arrest is suspected of being within the premises, the premises may be searched for the person to be arrested without a search warrant.[1]

A search warrant may be issued by a magistrate when he is satisfied by information on oath and in writing that there is reasonable ground for believing that any building, ship, carriage, receptacle or place is being used for the commission of an offence[2].

The person executing the search warrant may seize such thing and carry it before the issuing magistrate or any other magistrate, to be dealt with according to law. The search warrant may also direct that the occupier of the premises where whatever is named in the search warrant is found can be arrested.[3]

A superior officer can also issue a search warrant but it must be limited to where the item to be searched is a stolen property. And where the premises is occupied by a person who within the preceding 12 months has been convicted of receiving stolen goods, harboring thieves, fraud or dishonesty and punishable by imprisonment – Such officer issued a warrant must be allowed access into the premises to be searched and where property is seized, the occupier of the premises may be arrested and brought before the magistrate to account for his possession of the goods. Where free ingress (entry) is not allowed to the person executing the search warrant, the person may break into and enter such premises in order to execute the search warrant.[4]

Furthermore, a police officer may break out of the premises after executing such warrant[5]. The person executing the search warrant may search any person within the premises whom he reasonably believes is concealing on him whatever is being searched for[6].

[1] section 7 of CPA and section 34 of CPC.

[2] section 107(1) of CPA

[3] section 107 of CPA and section 74 of CPC.

[4] section 112 and 7(2) of CPA.

[5] section 8 of CPA

[6] – section 112(3) of CPA and section 81(1) of CPC.