Let’s say you are home glued to the television when you are startled by a knock on the door. You are not expecting company and are stunned when you look through the peephole and see a couple of police officers outside your door. What in the world are they doing there? You are about to find out.
Knock and Talk
So, you open the door, and the very friendly officers ask if they can come in to ask you a few questions. This is a rudimentary investigative technique police legally use to get their foot in the door with you—literally. Since you have not done anything wrong, you reason that there is no reason to deny them a little chat. The truth, though, is that although you can talk if you really want to, there are a slew of reasons that you should never, ever allow police to enter or search your home or property without a warrant. They could use that chat time to informally eye your place and try to find something they can use against you later. It does not matter how innocent you are. Don’t do it.
Fourth Amendment Rights
Assuming they do not have a warrant, the police cannot conduct a search without your consent. Do not consent: Even if they say it will be better for you if you cooperate, even if they indicate they will just go get a warrant anyway, even if they imply that you could be arrested if you do not cooperate. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution is clear: You are protected from unreasonable searches. That means that no warrant and no consent equals no search.
It is Just a Friendly Chat, Right?
Now you understand that under no circumstances will you consent to a search, but what is wrong with answering a few questions? Absolutely nothing. But do not invite them into the house. Instead, step out onto the porch to talk. Why? Because there is every possibility that police are there looking for evidence. If they are eyeballing your home as you chat, who knows what will catch their eye? They may fixate on something that gives them probable cause to conduct a full-fledged search. In truth, if they showed up without a warrant, they likely do not have the evidence necessary to really get a warrant. Requesting to take a look around is part of their routine and their right. Politely declining is your right. Not only will it prevent a search in the immediate situation—but it will also give your lawyer ammunition to use in your defense if you wind up in a courtroom based on the encounter.
But There is Nothing Illegal in Your Home!
You may be thinking, there is nothing that could possibly pique the interest of an officer anywhere in your home! Why all the fuss about refusing entry to officers? Let ‘em in; have a looksie! There is nothing in your teenager’s room; nothing in your bathroom trash can; nothing in your spouse’s underwear drawer! You’ve never had a guest inadvertently leave anything the cops might find interesting. Well, come to think of it, you really can’t be 100% certain that nothing would be noteworthy to a law enforcement officer. The point is you have nothing to gain by letting the police look at your place. Nothing. Conversely, who knows what could go wrong and what you might have to lose? Continue reading