We've heard it time-and-time again: "The officers knocked on my door and asked if they could come in. I didn't want to cause any problems, so I just let them in."
Another scenario: "They said they just wanted to look around." Next, the officers find something they contend is illegal and place the suspect under arrest. We are then asked after the arrest "Did I have to let them in?"
Well, after the arrest is generally not the time to discover the answer to this question. As with any set of circumstances in a search and seizure setting, the answer will always be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Do They Have A Warrant?
Generally, the government (police, detective or other law enforcement agency) is not lawfully permitted in a home unless they have a valid search warrant. There are numerous exceptions to this general rule and a few of them are mentioned in this article. However, if you do not take anything else away from this article, you need to know that we all have an expectation of privacy in our home. This means the government cannot come into your home unless the officers have a warrant or circumstances exists that do not require the officers to have a warrant.
Your Fourth Amendment Rights
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures" and it "shall not be violated." A search or seizure is presumed to be unreasonable if it is conducted without a warrant. Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385, 390 (1978).
However, the State may overcome the presumption if the search or seizure falls within one of several exceptions. Exceptions to the search warrant "rule" may include an emergency situation (also known as an "exigent circumstances"); the officers see contraband (something illegal) in plain view; or, consent (where you let the officers enter your home).
It's a lot harder to get them out once they are in. Therefore, remember this basic right: you do not have to just let them in. Don't worry about hurting feelings, or feeling like you need to "do the right thing." The officers may eventually get in if they are able to obtain a warrant or some other set of circumstances exists (the "rule" exceptions above) where a warrant is not necessary.
Also, never forget that, if the officers force their way in, do not get yourself in a situation where you are causing more problems for yourself by trying to physically prevent them from doing so. You will have an opportunity to defend yourself when the dust settles.
Protect Your Rights – Hire A Murfreesboro Criminal Lawyer
Every situation is different. Whether the officers are permitted to be in your home will always be determined on a case-by-case basis. If you find yourself in a situation where the officers are searching your home, whether the officers lawfully entered your home will depend upon every fact and circumstance that exist at the time.
If you are facing a DUI, other criminal offenses or are the subject of a criminal investigation, call Murfreesboro criminal defense attorneys Thomas Parkerson and Tommy Santel at PARKERSON | SANTEL PLLC.