What to Do If the Police Want to Search Your Property

The Fourth Amendment protects you from an unreasonable police search of your person, home, or belongings. It’s a right that’s easy to forget when the police are at your door, asking to come inside.

Dealing with law enforcement can be a tricky situation. You know that refusing to obey a police order can cause problems for you, so you worry about denying them entry to your home. It is important to remember that the police have broad enforcement powers, but they can’t exercise them arbitrarily. Nor can they enter your home without a valid reason.

Don’t allow them to come in

Safety protocols dictate that when someone knocks on your door, you determine who it is before opening it. If you see the police standing on your doorstep, you have options that can prevent an unexpected entry.

  • Don’t answer the door. If the officers do not have a warrant, they cannot enter your home and you are under no obligation to respond. They will eventually depart.
  • Open the door, but speak to them through the slight opening protected by your door’s chain lock so they are unable to view anything that could potentially give them probable cause to enter your home.
  • Go outside through another entrance (e.g. the back door) and speak to them on your front steps.

Ask them why they are there

While you may not be thrilled to see the police on your doorstep, resist the urge to make the fact obvious. Be calm and respectfully ask how you can assist them.

Sometimes the police are there for a comparatively trivial reason. Maybe your neighbor complained about the noisy party you’re holding right now. Perhaps a crime was committed on your street earlier in the day and the officers are merely seeking information from all residents. If so a simple apology or conversation is likely all that’s needed.

On other occasions, the police may be there because you are a suspect in a criminal investigation or they have been alerted that something illegal is going on in your home. Even if you know you are innocent, simply say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t let you inside without a search warrant.”

Ask to see a warrant

Even if the police have probable cause to believe that you are doing something illegal in your home, they are legally required to get a search warrant signed by a judge before they can enter and search. The primary exception to this rule is if you give permission for the officers to enter. Once inside, any items perceived to be illegal that are out in the open can be seized as evidence and lead to your arrest.

The only way the police can enter your home without your consent is the “exigent circumstances exception.”  In 2005 the Florida Supreme Court defined exigent circumstances as those which constitute a ‘grave emergency.’ An example might be the sound of a person inside the house screaming for help.

Ask to speak to an attorney

If the police refuse to leave or imply that you could be arrested if you don’t cooperate, ask them if you can call your attorney now. When you request an attorney, legally they are required to stop questioning you. In many cases they will leave at this point.

Even if you know that you have done nothing wrong, you should never consent to a police search of your home. Most times, nothing may come of it, but the one time that a police search goes wrong could haunt you for the rest of your life. Instead of yielding, contact the Law Office of Barry M. Wax today and let us defend your rights against illegal or unnecessary policing tactics.

Share this on...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someone

Written by Law Offices of Barry M. Wax

Law Offices of Barry M. Wax

For 32 years, I have provided both State- and Federal-Level representation for those facing charges ranging from wire fraud, mortgage fraud, and healthcare fraud to identity theft, drug trafficking, money laundering, murder, DUI, domestic violence and numerous other criminal charges. In every case, it is my commitment to one-on-one service and support that has separated the Law Offices of Barry M. Wax from other criminal defense firms. When it comes to your future, you need a strong defense and the ability to make the right choices and regain control of your life.