The Police at Your Door

by Gavin Holihan

It’s late at night, your day is over but the police are at your door. What you do next will have long lasting implications. It is important to think about some basic truths; sometimes the police bring you good news, but not normally. More likely it is either bad news or very bad news. It is almost always a mistake to allow the police to search your home unless they have a warrant to do so. If the police have a search warrant or an arrest warrant for a resident of your home, they are permitted to enter and search your home, even if you object. But a warrant must be obtained from a judge and must be supported by probable cause. In most cases, the police will have a copy of the warrant with them and they will show it to you. Without a warrant, the police are not allowed to enter your home unless you agree to let them in. In the absence of a warrant, the police have as much right as I do to wander through your home opening drawers, looking into closets and turning over cabinets.

First and foremost do not invite the police into your home unless you know exactly what they want. They know the law better than you do. They know why they are there. They have prepared for this and probably have discussed this with supervisors, detectives and prosecutors. They have the advantage over you. The only way for you to protect yourself and your family is to keep the police out of your home. Allowing them through your front door effectively allows them to wander through your home looking through your personal belongings and investigating your life.

Although you may be confident that you have done nothing wrong, do you want police officers rummaging through your life? They might be investigating your son’s possession of stolen property, or your daughter’s drug use, or your brother-in-law’s access to child pornography. They could be there to investigate whether minors have access to alcohol in your home, or they may be responding to a complaint about the way you punish your children. They may be there for one reason but find evidence of a totally different offense and then prosecute for that crime. When you consent to a search of your home, you are giving up your control and sovereignty as well as that of everyone else who lives with you.

The police are allowed into your home in very limited circumstances. You are not required to allow the police into your home unless they have a warrant. If they have no warrant you may legally refuse to have them enter your home. You commit no crime by denying them entry. If a further discussion is necessary, step out of the house and close the door behind you. They can explain what they want. You can respond in an intelligent manner; without sacrificing your family’s privacy.

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