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What Should You Do When The Police Are At Your Door?

Brian J Smith July 14, 2014

When the police show up on your doorstep unannounced, panicking seems like the only option. However, there is one very good way to stay calm and avoid having your home searched in this situation: Know your rights.

Stand your ground: No search warrant means no search!

A Supreme Court ruling guarantees your home maximum protection from searches. Even when police have probable cause to suspect illegal things are occurring inside, the Fourth Amendment requires them to obtain a search warrant signed by a judge in order to legally enter your home and search it.

Photo provided by Okko Pyykkö

There is one big exception: when you give consent. If you invite a police officer into your home, anything illegal “in plain view,” or out in the open, can be taken as evidence and contribute to an arrest. Keep any belongings you wouldn’t want officers to see safely stored away and out of sight of your entryway.

Don’t invite the officers inside.

There are a few ways to avoid the officers entering your home or forcing an entry. One option is to leave through a different door and meet them outside. You could also simply keep the chain lock secured and speak through the opening. Lastly, remember that you don’t have to open the door at all. Unless the officers possess a warrant, they will go away eventually.

Learn why they’re there.

Remain calm and respectful, as you would with any other guests. Ask how you can help. You may find the visit doesn’t have much to do with you, such as when officers are investigating a local crime, or it could regard something easily fixed, such as a noise complaint. When applicable, simply apologize and correct the issue.


Photo Provided by Karl Baron

If the officer wishes to enter your home, simply state that you can’t let him or her inside without a search warrant—and then stay silent. Immediately consult an attorney before speaking to law enforcement again.

If you’ve had a police officer show up at your door unannounced and unaccompanied by a search warrant, or had your home searched, contact defense attorney Brian J. Smith at (702) 380-8248 as soon as possible.