What do you do when law enforcement officers come knocking at your door? Maybe they’re looking for a relative or friend of yours who’s suspected of robbing a convenience store. Maybe you’re having a party and one of the neighbors called about the noise. Either way, you’re pretty sure you’d rather not have the police inside your home.
Here’s what you should know about your rights:
- There’s no law that says you have to open your door. If the authorities have a warrant that entitles them to enter without permission or there’s any indication that a crime is in progress inside your home, however, they may eventually break down your door if you don’t let them in.
- You can speak to the police through your door if you want. That may be the best way to find out if they have a warrant. Keep in mind, however, that not all warrants are the same. A search warrant gives police the right to enter your home and look around. An arrest warrant only allows the police to come inside if the person named in the warrant is believed to be there. A warrant of removal, on the other hand, doesn’t allow officers working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to enter your home at all without permission — even if their target is present.
- If the officers say that they have a warrant, ask them to slide it under your door so that you can examine it before you grant entry to your home.
- If you prefer, you can step outside of your home to speak with the police. Should you do so, shut the door behind you so that the police cannot claim that they witnessed anything illegal through the open door (and thus justify their intrusion and search).
Remember: You are under no obligation to answer questions by the police — and you shouldn’t without an experienced criminal defense attorney at your side.