When the police come knocking at your door, you might feel completely overcome with worry and concern, even if you haven’t done anything wrong. The police often use this fear to intimidate you and your family, making you feel as if you need to open your door and allow them to search your home and property. However, it is important for you to understand that you can turn down a search if the officer does not have a search warrant. Before you allow police into your home, make sure you know your rights as a homeowner or renter.
Know Your Rights
The Fourth Amendment protects all United States citizens from unreasonable intrusion, also called “search and seizure.” When law enforcement wishes to enter your home or business, they must have a valid search warrant, except for in special circumstances. Special circumstances may include emergency situations, where the officer has probable cause to believe a crime has occurred on your property, or if the property owner or manager has given permission to enter. Otherwise, the officer must always have a valid search warrant for the property in question or a valid arrest warrant for someone on the property.
Understanding Probable Cause
Unfortunately, probable cause can be a bit of a grey area and is often interpretive. Probably cause is somewhat subjective, and is dependent on the officer’s understanding of the situation. If a law enforcement officer has factual information or circumstantial evidence that leads him or her to believe a crime occurred on the property, the officer can then search the property legally. In other words, if the officer sees evidence that some crime occurred on the property, they no longer need a permit to enter.
How To Handle the Situation
If the officer has a search warrant, arrest warrant, or probable cause, you must let them into your home. However, in any other situation, you are within your rights to refuse a search of your home or business. Officers may try to get you to open the door so they can look into your home from the doorway, hoping to catch a glimpse of something that could pass as probable cause to enter the property. Or, they may try to talk you into giving them permission to let them in.
In order to protect your rights, make sure you do not open the door unless the officer shows you physical proof of an arrest or search warrant. Tell them through the door that they may not enter without a warrant, in which case they will be forced to leave and return only when they have legal cause to do so.
Illegal Search & Seizure
When an officer enters your home without any legal right to do so and obtains evidence or makes an arrest, you have a right to take legal action. If an officer conducted an illegal search and seizure, our firm wants to help you protect yourself from further violations of your rights. We can work with you to determine how your rights were violated and defend against any other legal accusations against you.
Contact Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A.to get started on your criminal defense case today with our West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyers.