Having police officers at your door can be intimidating. Police will not read you any rights or advise you of whether you are legally obligated to comply with their requests, so it is best to know your rights before you are faced with police at your door.
If you did not request assistance from the police, you have the option of not answering the door. If the officers have a search warrant or if there is a reason they need to talk with you (e.g., your dog broke out of the yard and injured someone or your neighbors made a noise complaint against you), they will continue to knock and most likely announce why they are there.
Speak With Police Through A Chain Lock or Screen Door
If you don’t mind speaking with the police or you are uncomfortable leaving them unanswered, you can speak to them with a chain lock still fastened or through the screen door.
You can also step outside of your home and close the door behind you so the officers can’t see inside. Remember they do not have the right to enter your home without a warrant or consent, so if they ask you to allow them inside or to open the door, you should ask to see a warrant.
Don’t Answer Questions
As advised in our previous post, the best practice to avoid unnecessary dealings with the police is simply not to talk to them. If the police come to your door and begin asking questions, you should ask them if you are under arrest and advise that you would not like to answer any questions without your lawyer present.
If The Police Ask To Search Your Home
Sometimes, the police will come to your home and request to search it. There can be many reasons for the request. A neighbor could have reported something about you or your property, they could have received an anonymous tip, or they could have witnessed something they believed was a violation of the law.
No matter what the reason is, the police may only search your home with your consent or with a valid search warrant. If the police ask if they can search your home, you should decline by saying, “I’m sorry, but I can’t allow you to search my home without a warrant.”
Note that consent from any person will provide the police permission to search, so be sure to advise roommates and family members if you do not consent to police searches.
If the police state they have a warrant, ask to see it. Even though police know they can get in serious trouble for claiming to have a warrant when they don’t, there have been cases of police misconduct when the police did exactly that.
If the police have a search warrant and you do not answer the door, they should announce they are there to conduct a search. If you still don’t answer, they may use force to enter your property.
In some limited situations, the police may enter your home without a warrant if there are exigent circumstances. Exigent circumstances are emergencies which require immediate attention from the police or situations where waiting for a warrant would allow for destruction of evidence.
For example, if someone is actively involved in a police chase and runs for cover inside of a home, the police would not have to wait for a warrant. Likewise, if someone from your residence calls the police to report an assault or domestic violence by a family member, the police may be excused from having a warrant.
If the police are on your property for one of these situations, you will likely know the reason for their visit.
You May Not Be In Trouble
Just because the police are on your doorstep, it doesn’t mean that you have done something wrong. It could be that they are collecting information about a crime in the neighborhood, conducting a wellness check, etc.
Stay calm and be courteous if you do choose to speak with them. You are not obligated to answer any questions unless you are under arrest, so if you feel uncomfortable, you can simply state you don’t have more time to talk.
Plain View Doctrine
If you answer the door to speak with police and there are contraband or illegal items in plain sight, the police have the right to seize it. If you have items that you would rather the police didn’t see, you should keep them out of areas that are visible from the entrance to your home.
Call Beahm Law Today
If the police searched or requested to search your home, call us immediately.
Police don’t conduct random searches of homes, so if you have encountered this situation, it is imperative that you contact the lawyers at Beahm Law for a free consultation by calling 415-493-8677 so we can investigate and protect your rights.