It is a Saturday night and you are entertaining friends at your residence when you get a knock on the door. It is the police and they want to come in. The first questions which likely come up are: What do you do? Followed by a series of questions such as: Can you ignore them? Are you legally required to open the door? Will they break down the door?
The above hypothetical is a realistic one that has and can happen. The criminal defense attorneys of Fry & Elder will shed some light on common probable cause questions so that you can have a better understanding of your rights.
Do Police Need a Warrant to Enter and Search My Home?
The short answer is yes. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that a person has the right to be secure in their “persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
This means that unless an officer has a search warrant, they generally cannot enter a person’s home. All police searches must be reasonable; unreasonable searches of your property are illegal and any evidence gathered during an unreasonable, illegal search cannot be used against you in a criminal case.
In many ways, the Fourth Amendment is there to remind the government that unless it is an emergency, law enforcement officials cannot just bust into someone’s home without an order from a judge.
Your Fourth Amendment right will be waived if you open the door and invite the police inside. Even if you have nothing to hide, there is usually nothing to gain by allowing the police to search your residence.
What defines a valid search warrant?
This is another common probable cause question many ask. A valid must meet four requirements:
- The warrant must be filed in good faith by a law enforcement officer
- The warrant must be based on reliable information showing probable cause to search
- The warrant must be issued by a neutral and detached magistrate
- The warrant must state specifically the place to be searched and the items to be seized
Can Police Enter Your Home Without a Valid Search Warrant?
There are only two ways the police can enter your home: the first is if you give your consent, and the second is if there is an immediate emergency that reasonably requires the officer to enter the home without a warrant.
An example of an exigent circumstance would be if a person within the house was being held hostage or threatened by someone the police believe is armed and dangerous and the police reasonably believe the search is necessary to protect life and prevent serious injury.
The cops may also be allowed to enter a home to prevent the destruction of evidence or contraband. Another common exigent circumstance occurs in domestic violence cases wherein the police are responding to a 9-1-1 call of domestic violence and they need to enter the home to prevent serious injury.
Once the police enter your home in these situations or with a valid search warrant anything the officer hears, sees, or smells is fair game.
Experience the Fry & Elder Difference
With roots dating back to 1932, the name Fry & Elder has been synonymous with legal excellence for nearly 100 years.
Our team of attorneys and legal personnel believe it is very important for citizens (and non-citizens, too) to know their rights and be willing to exercise them when dealing with law enforcement. If you are facing criminal charges resulting from evidence seized in an unlawful search, contact Fry & Elder today to set up a personal consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.