There’s a knock at the door and you see a police car sitting in the driveway. Maybe you look through the window and see the police standing in your doorway. They knock again, announce themselves, and ask to come inside.
At that moment, you have a decision to make. You may feel like you have to let them inside. You may be worried that they’re going to break down the door or arrest you if you refuse. But are you actually obligated to do so?
The police need to have a warrant
With a few exceptions, such as in certain emergencies, the police cannot enter your home without a warrant. They can ask you for your permission. You can also ask them to see the warrant. If they don’t have it, then you’re not obligated to open the door. You can simply request that they come back with a warrant from a judge, showing where they can search your house and what they’re looking for. If they do this, then you do have to let them inside.
The main exception to searches performed with a warrant is when people simply give their consent. If you do so, then the police are allowed to come in and look around, and they may gather evidence or take an interest in items that are in plain view. You can consent if you’d like, although it may not be advisable, and you certainly should not believe that you have an obligation to allow the police to enter your home.
Additionally, if the police have performed an illegal search of your home, it can have a dramatic impact on how evidence is used if you’ve been arrested. Make sure that you are well aware of all of your criminal defense options.