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When can the police enter my home?

On Behalf of | Feb 7, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Seeing a police officer at your door can be jarring and cause you incredible anxiety. This is understandable, since police officers are rarely bringing good news.

If you are like many California residents, you may assume that you must open the door, speak with the police and let them into your home. This is not true.

You have legal rights under the Fourth Amendment that deserve protection. Although it could be tempting to cooperate with the officer in hopes of resolving whatever the situation is, do not do it.

Your Fourth Amendment rights

The Fourth Amendment states that police officers must typically have a search warrant to come into your home or anywhere else that you have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

When the police show up at your door, you can state your name if they ask, but do not answer any other questions. If they ask to come into your home, request to see the search warrant and their badges first.

You do not have to open the door to see the warrant. You can ask them to slide it under the door. If the warrant and their badges appear legitimate, you must let them in.

Where the officers can search

However, a search warrant for a home is narrow in scope. It should list only the specific items to be seized.

Additionally, police officers can only search for these items in places they are likely to be found. For example, they cannot search for a spoon or other kitchen item inside your bedroom closet.

Searches without a warrant

Police officers can enter your home without a search warrant if they have probable cause to believe that evidence a crime will be found in your home. It is a relatively high burden to establish probable cause, and it must be based on the totality of the circumstances.

You should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately after the cops leave. The search or anything seized from the search must comply with legal requirements, and a violation of any of these could potentially be a defense to any criminal charges.