Do you have to open the door for the police?

On Behalf of | Feb 6, 2024 | Criminal Law |

“Police. Open up” is something you hear fictional law enforcement officers say all the time. What if you hear this for real at your door? Do you need to obey and open up? Or can you just ignore them?

Generally, you do not need to open the door to the police, but sometimes you do. It all depends on the circumstances of the moment.

They don’t require your permission if they have a warrant

If the police tell you they have a warrant, get them to show it. Have them put it under the door or hold it up to a window. Check for the correct details and a judge’s signature. Without them, the warrant is invalid, and you do not need to open your door.

They may not need a warrant in exigent circumstances

The police can enter a property if they are chasing a criminal who has entered it. They can enter if they have very good reason to believe that someone is in immediate danger or committing a crime inside. In cases such as these, they may enter whether you like it or not, and opening the door could save you from having to repair it after the officers break it down.

They can enter with your permission

Police officers can enter if you permit them. That does not mean you have to say, “Please come in,” or anything quite so affirmative. Merely replying, “Why would I?” if an officer asks if you mind if they come in out of the cold for a moment, could give them the permission needed.

In all cases, you are under no obligation to speak to the officers, and staying silent is usually best. If an arrest results, get legal help to examine the circumstances in which the officers entered. What they have perceived as permission or extenuating circumstances may differ from what a judge might think. And that could invalidate any evidence they gathered on entry.