It’s common knowledge that many criminal charges come about after police enter someone’s home to search the premises or arrest someone. To do this, sometimes the police have prior permission (in the form of a warrant), and other times the police are responding to a call and arrest someone in connection with an incident at the scene.
In either case, knowing your rights in these situations could help you minimize any negative consequences if police show up at your door.
A warrant may give police officers permission to enter a property
If the police want to enter your property to search for something such as drugs, they generally need a warrant to do so. That is, unless police have some other reason to believe that a crime is being committed. For example, if the police see someone in possession of a gun and that person flees into a house, the police may try to enter that house without a warrant in order to pursue the person with a gun. When police enter a home without a warrant and arrest someone, the police typically need to justify this later in court.
However, if a judge issues a warrant, it could be issued for a couple of reasons:
- To allow police to enter and search a property when they have reason to believe there is evidence of a crime inside.
- To allow police to enter a property to arrest someone who is suspected of a crime.
Important: search warrants and arrest warrants must include specific details and be limited in scope. For more on that, please see our previous post, “Understanding the scope of search warrants.”
In the absence of a warrant, some people accidentally give police permission to enter
Sometimes police officers phrase questions so that your response essentially gives them permission to enter even if you didn’t intend to. For example, they may say, “I hope you don’t mind if we take a quick look inside?” If you say no, then you are actually saying yes to their entering.
Simply put, knowing the best way to deal with police can be confusing. If you are unsure, remember that you have a right to legal counsel and representation. In the absence of a warrant, you can politely decline to have the police enter your home or vehicle. If there is a warrant, you can say that you would like your attorney present before you say anything else to police.