Regardless of the situation, it can always be nerve racking when interacting with law enforcement officials, especially when they come knocking at your door. In this specific instance, it is incredibly important to know your rights and have the answers to these questions: Are you legally required to open the door? If they only want to talk with you, are you required to say something? If you ignore them, are they allowed to forcibly enter your home or apartment?
In short, you are under no obligation to speak to the police or open the door. Here’s why:
The Police Almost Always Need a Warrant to Enter and Search Your Home
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” This means that unless the police have a warrant, they usually cannot enter your home. The exception is if they have a reasonable reason to search your property, however, if it is found that their search was unreasonable, whatever evidence was found can’t be used against you in a criminal case.
It is important to note that if you invited the cops inside, you have just contested to a search and will not be protected under the Fourth Amendment. All in all, you are better off not allowing the police to search your home, regardless if you are innocent or guilty. Inviting them in, or even talking with them, carries the potential of causing more harm than good.
Your Home is Your Best Protection Against Illegal Searches
If a random person came knocking at your door, you have no obligation to let them in — the same goes for police officers. They are not permitted to do anything a citizen can’t do, unless they have a warrant to do so. The right to be secure in your home and your right to privacy is your constitutional right, and even if you feel comfortable speaking with the police, do so by stepping outside and closing your door behind you. It is important to close your door because if they see anything illegal, they will legally be allowed to search your home.
What Allows a Warrantless Search?
Exceptions to the warrant requirement must be carefully drawn because a warrantless search is unconstitutional when there is no probable cause. Often, a warrantless search happens when there are exigent circumstances. Exigent circumstances occur when the officers reasonably believe that contraband or other evidence may be destroyed or removed before a search warrant could be obtained. Further, exigent circumstances also permit a warrantless entry or search while a warrant is being obtained and may excuse the failure to knock and announcement before entry. Lastly, exigent circumstances exist when there is a situation that demands immediate action necessitating unusual action and circumvention of usual procedures, such as someone’s life is being threatened.
You Have the Right to Say No
If the police come knocking at your door without a search warrant, make sure to exercise your Fourth Amendment right. Often, if you refuse, they police may say certain things to persuade you otherwise, but like stated earlier, whether you are guilty or innocent, you have more to gain by saying no.
It is very important for you to know your rights and be willing to exercise them when dealing with law enforcement officials. If you are facing criminal charges resulting from evidence seized in an unlawful search, contact our experienced criminal defense lawyers at Premier Federal Criminal Defenders today for a free consultation. We will work with you to protect your rights and your freedom. 1-800-455-6200.