Many people receive visits from the police. You may be at home when, all of a sudden, the police knock at your door asking to be allowed inside. This can be a stressful and overwhelming situation, especially if you have never been through this kind of experience. Some people may not be aware of their rights and may let the police inside their homes, only to find out they were there to collect evidence against you or a loved one. Are you obligated to open the door to the police whenever they ask you? The Atlantic City illegal search and seizure attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych invite you to keep reading as we answer this critical question.
What is a Warrant?
A warrant is a legal document signed by a judge that allows law enforcement to search for and seize property. Since a person has an expectation of privacy in their home (which is protected by the U.S. Constitution) police officers need to ask for a warrant before entering your home. More than a mere document, a warrant has to include specific information about what law enforcement intends to do. For instance, when an officer asks for a search warrant, he or she must provide accurate information regarding the place to be searched, the property they wish to seize, and other data pertaining to their specific operation.
In addition to requesting a warrant from a judge, a police officer will need to show you evidence of the warrant before entering your premises. In other words, a police officer cannot enter your home waving a paper and claiming it is a warrant. As the occupant of the property, you have the right to inspect the warrant and make sure the search police officers intend to perform is lawful.
Additionally, officers cannot engage in abuses of power while performing a search. This means they need to treat you with respect and deference, despite the fact that they are looking through your home. Furthermore, if they disregard the legal procedures tied to a search and seizure, all the evidence they collect may be excluded in any legal proceedings against you.
Do I Have to Open the Door for the Police?
People who have never been exposed to a search and seizure may wonder whether they have to open their door to the police whenever they show up. As mentioned before, the U.S. Constitution protects your home against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” It goes on to say that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause … describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Therefore, the police cannot enter your property without a search warrant.
If you are inside your home and the police do not have a warrant, you have the right to deny them entry. You can answer the door and ask them about the purpose of their visit. From that point on, a police officer can’t do much more without the court-issued warrant.
There are, however, specific situations where a police officer may enter your property without a search warrant. However, these situations must be of such an extreme nature that their immediate entry is justified; these situations are known as exigent circumstances. Generally, there are three types of exigent circumstances that may give rise to a search without a warrant.
The police can open the door of your house and enter in case of a real emergency, such as if someone is screaming for help. Additionally, a police officer can enter your home in cases where running to a courthouse to get a warrant may lead to the destruction or loss of evidence. Furthermore, if the police are chasing a criminal who seeks refuge in a house, they can enter without a warrant to make an arrest.
If a police officer enters your property without authorization, they would be in violation of your Constitutional rights, and any evidence they obtain under those circumstances will likely be inadmissible in a court of law. If the police suspect that you have been involved in an aggravated assault, criminal mischief, vehicular homicide, or any other crime and they wish to enter your home, they must get a valid warrant first.
What Happens If the Police Illegally Enter My Home?
If the police enter your house without your consent and without a warrant, there is an excellent chance that any evidence found against you will dismissed. Evidence collected as a result of an unlawful search becomes inadmissible. Additionally, all subsequent evidence related to the initial evidence that was illegally collected will also be inadmissible. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can help you fight against illegally obtained evidence.
Criminal Defense Attorneys Offering Free Consultations in New Jersey
Having the police knocking at your door can be an extremely stressful situation, especially if you have never been involved with the police before. However, some laws protect you against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych can help you protect your rights as a defendant. Do not give your consent to the police; let them show you a valid search warrant first. To discuss your case in a free, confidential consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, call our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.