How many reality TV shows and movies contain a scene of police yelling, “Police, open up!” This makes for dramatic entertainment, but for those that have been on the other side of the door, it can be traumatic.
It is common to think of a home as a sanctuary that protects you from the outside world. The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution gives every citizen protection from illegal search and seizure.
With that in mind, what are the circumstances and means by which law enforcement can enter your home?
They have a warrant
If law enforcement has obtained a warrant to enter and search your home, it means that they have already proven probable cause. Probable cause means that law enforcement has proven that an individual in the home needs to be arrested or the home contains evidence of a crime.
They have your permission
If the police ask if they can enter the home and you give them permission, they can do so even without a warrant.
There’s another compelling reason
If law enforcement does not have a warrant, four specific circumstances could allow them to legally enter your home:
- Emergencies: There is a provision in the law that gives law enforcement to enter your home in the event of an emergency, such as a house fire or medical emergency.
- Plain view: If anything illegal in the home is visible from outside the home, then law enforcement can enter the home without permission to investigate an alleged crime.
- Pursuing an arrest: If law enforcement is arresting someone in their home, they are allowed to search the house to make sure that the place is secured and free of weapons, accomplices and evidence.
Knowing the legal reasons why law enforcement can enter your home without a warrant can be helpful to make sure your rights are protected.