Do not assume that the police can enter your home whenever they want. They are in a position of authority as members of local law enforcement. But that certainly does not give them the ability to enter your home at any time in violation of your rights.
That being said, there definitely are times when they can come into your home and specific procedures that must be followed in order to ensure that such entry remains lawful. Below are a few examples of how and when law enforcement officers may potentially enter your residence.
They will generally ask for your consent
First and foremost, police officers will generally request consent to come inside. You have the ability to give this consent or deny it if you would like. Oftentimes, police officers will ask for consent when they are in search of potentially incriminating evidence. Even if they ask in an authoritative manner, you do not have to give them permission unless they have a warrant or some emergency-related exception to the consent rule applies to the situation in question.
They will need to get a warrant absent consent
If you do not offer the police consent, then their next option is usually to obtain a search warrant. They need to show that there is probable cause for them to go inside and seek evidence or that it’s clear that illegal activity is happening. A judge can then give them a search warrant that they can execute, even if they don’t have your consent. Even so, if they claim to have a search warrant, it’s wise to ask to see that warrant and to check where in the home it says they can search and what they are supposed to be looking for before stepping aside. Even the execution warrants are subject to restrictions.
They may claim it is an emergency situation
One potentially gray legal area may occur when the police say that there was an emergency and so they need to enter without a warrant. They may claim there isn’t time to obtain a warrant, perhaps saying that a crime is in process, they are in hot pursuit of a suspect or that they believe that evidence is being destroyed in the home. Under these circumstances, you’ll need to permit them entry but they will be burdened by proving, after the fact, that the search was truly justified.
If the police enter your home in a way that violates your rights, it can have a dramatic impact on a criminal case and the evidence they can use against you. Be very sure that you know about all of the legal options at your disposal if you’ve been charged with criminal wrongdoing after the search of your home. Speaking with an attorney about your situation is generally a necessary first step forward.