Police visits can be intimidating. When police visit someone’s home, they usually don’t say whether the person who answers the door is legally obligated to answer questions, and they don’t tell them about their rights.
Below are 5 tips for dealing with police at the door:
1. Declining to Answer
A lot of people don’t realize that they are not obligated to answer the door when police knock. If a resident or homeowner did not request assistance from the police, then simply not responding is an option.
If the police have a search warrant or a valid reason to talk to the resident (e.g. a neighbor called in a noise complaint) then the police will announce that reason and, if legally authorized to do so, use force the enter the home.
2. Speaking to police through a chain lock or screen door
For those that want to answer the door for police, but do not want to allow police into the home, the use of a chain lock or a screen door is advisable.
Also, residents can step outside of the home and close the front door to answer any questions.
A closed or cracked door indicates that the homeowner is cooperative, but does not wish to have the officers inside of the home. It also prevents officers from looking into the home and viewing and contraband or other items that may be in plain view by the officers.
Police cannot search a home without a warrant, but they can seize any items that are in plain view (meaning, clearly visible without doing a search) and use it against the owner or resident of the home in court.
3. Avoiding Questions
An easy way to avoid unwanted involvement with the police is to refuse to answer questions. Even if someone is under arrest, police cannot compel a person to answer questions.
Even though police may be at a person’s door for a reason that is unrelated to the homeowner, if the homeowner feels uncomfortable at all he or she can simply decline to answer any questions.
If the police persist, the homeowner can simply reply that they are uncomfortable answering questions without a lawyer present.
4. Avoiding Police Searches
While many people believe that police have the have a warrant to search a home, there are actually many ways that officers can gain access to a home and search some or all of it without a warrant.
These are known as warrant exception searches.
For example, if a crime has occurred at the home, such as a murder, the police may be allowed to access the crime scene to take photos and collect evidence.
Also, if someone called the police from the home and requested assistance (for example, if someone called in to report domestic abuse) or if the police witness a crime occurring (e.g. the police see someone fire a gun through an open window) they may enter the home and do a limited search under an exception known as exigent circumstances.
Another way police can enter a home without a valid search warrant is by consent.
Sometimes, the police visit a home and make a request to search it. There are a lot of reasons why this can happen.
Maybe a neighbor reported suspicion of illegal activity, the police received an anonymous tip, or maybe the police had a hunch there was illegal activity occurring on the property.
If police visit a home and ask if they are can search the property, and a person living in the home consents, then the police can search the home.
This seems unfair if, for example, the homeowner’s girlfriend answers the door, claims she lives there, and allows the police to search the property.
While this is unfair, the police can use the consent of anyone who they reasonably believe lives in the home to search.
When the police approach a home and request to search the property, the best thing the homeowner can do is politely decline the search and ask to see a warrant.
If the officers claim to have a warrant, the homeowner should ask to see the warrant to make sure the officers truly have the authority to enter the premises.
Sometimes, police visit a home and ask questions for reasons unrelated to the homeowner. Perhaps they are collecting information about a neighborhood crime or conducting a wellness check at the request of a relative, etc.
Those speaking to the police under these circumstances should remain calm and courteous throughout the interaction.
If at any time the interview becomes uncomfortable or the homeowner believes the officers are asking too many questions or making the homeowner uncomfortable, they may always cease answering questions.
Contact The Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC Today
If police arrive on a property and request to search it, there is a reason behind it that should not be ignored.
If you or a loved one has experienced a random police visit recently and would like to discuss it, contact M.J. Snyder today for a free consultation at 215-515-3360.