If the police come knocking at your door, do you have to let them in? Depending on the circumstances, perhaps not. In general, the police must have a valid search warrant or arrest warrant before they can enter your home. This is to protect your Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful searches and seizures.
When do police need a valid warrant?
In order to obtain a court-approved warrant, police must convince a judge that they have probable cause to believe that physical evidence of a crime can be found in the place they want to search, or that a person who should lawfully be placed under arrest.
The warrant must specifically name the location to be searched or it must specifically name the person being placed under arrest. A search warrant must also specifically list what physical evidence the police are looking for.
There are exceptions to these requirements. For instance, note that if the police are lawfully in a location and they see evidence of a crime in plain sight, they can search that evidence even if they do not have a warrant.
What is the ‘knock-and-announce’ rule?
When approaching a location to be searched, police must generally follow the “knock-and-announce” rule. They must knock on the door and identify themselves and why they are there. They must wait for a reasonable amount of time for someone to come to the door and let them in before they can use force to enter.
Being subject to an unlawful search or seizure can be traumatizing. It can affect the trajectory of the case against you, so you will want to protect your rights. A criminal defense attorney can explain more about your Fourth Amendment rights and what you can do if they were violated.