Honest. Smart. Committed.

Know what to do when the cops are at the door

| Apr 1, 2021 | Criminal Law

If the police knock (or pound) on your door, do you know what to do to protect yourself and your family? Your actions in the moments and minutes after they arrive at your door wanting inside determine the trajectory of your future — or in some cases, whether you have one at all.

The following information can help you make an informed decision based on your Constitutional rights if or when the cops show up at your door.

Ask whether they have a warrant

If the police want in, ask if they have a warrant. If they do, they must show it to you. If they don’t, you have no legal obligation to let them in or even open your door at all. There are very limited circumstances in which police can legally barge into your home without permission.

However, if you invite them in or even appear to passively consent by standing aside so they can enter, you voluntarily waive some of the most important rights you have under the U.S. Constitution.

No warrant? No entry

Technically, if there’s no warrant in their hands, you don’t even have to respond to the knock at the door. But if you would like to find out what it is they want, you have several options:

  • Speak to them through the closed door
  • Step outside, firmly closing and locking the door behind you
  • Talking to them through a crack with the chain on

Of those three options, the last is the most dubious. Police might glimpse (or say they glimpsed) an illegal substance or a weapon through the door, upping the ante and potentially giving them the right to enter your premises.

If you talk through the door, this gives you the opportunity to call your criminal defense attorney while the police are on the outside. You can even tell them that your attorney is advising you to refuse them entry. Remember that you have rights provided to you under the Constitution but it is up to you to have the presence of mind to invoke them. Doing so could ultimately be your best defense in court if you are charged with a crime.