Everybody expects to be at peace and free from harm in their homes. However, such harmony can be disrupted when police officers show up at your door asking for you to open up. In such a situation, you may wonder if they have a legal right to enter your property and conduct a search and seizure in the name of the law. Many people may fear being charged with obstruction of justice and may let police officers enter their property. Can police officers come to your door without a warrant? The Atlantic City illegal searches and seizures attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych invite you to keep reading as we discuss this critical question.
Can the Police Show Up at Your Door without a Warrant?
You may wonder if the police have the authority to show up at your door without a warrant. As a matter of fact, law enforcement officials can show up at your door without a judge-issued order. It is true that inside our homes we have extensive legal protections against government intervention. However, this protection cannot stop officers from showing up at your front door in the pursuit of justice.
For instance, a police officer may show up, knock, and announce their presence to ask you a question regarding an ongoing investigation. What the police cannot do is knock at your door and enter your residence as soon as you open it. This is because you have a reasonable expectation of privacy inside your home, which is protected by the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment protects all citizens and their property against unreasonable searches and seizures. The only way a police officer can enter your home is with a warrant or in other exceptional circumstances, which we discuss below.
When Can the Police Enter My Property?
Police officers can enter into your home if they carry a legally obtained warrant. This means they need to request a warrant from a judge specifying the nature of the search, seizure, or arrest. If they don’t have a legal order, they cannot force their way into your property. Furthermore, as the property owner, you have the right to ask them to see the order and make sure that it is legal. If the order has an inconsistency, the search and seizure – along with any evidence obtained therein – would be illegal.
Another special circumstance where police officers can enter your property is if you consent to the search. If a police officer knocks at your door, asks if they can enter your property, and you accept, you will have effectively waived your Constitutional right regarding police searches. At this point, law enforcement officials would be legally entitled to search your home and seize any evidence against you.
Police officers can also enter your property in exigent circumstances. An exigent circumstance is one where a police officer has to act quickly to prevent evidence from being destroyed or lost. In other words, the impending destruction of the evidence outweighs the need for rushing to an available judge to get a warrant. Furthermore, an exigent circumstance can be extended to situations where there is an emergency, such as an assault in progress, sexual assault, or robbery inside a house. In such a case, a police officer doesn’t have to get a warrant to enter the property and intervene.
Can Officers Use Any Evidence Against Me?
Generally, all the evidence found in a legally performed search will be admissible and may be used against you in a court of law. However, things can be completely different if law enforcement officials take evidence without a judge-issued warrant or exigent circumstances to justify entering your property.
Illegally obtained evidence is not admissible in a court of law. Furthermore, all additional evidence related to illegally seized items will also be inadmissible. This is what is known as the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine. The reason why illegally obtained evidence is inadmissible rests in a principle of justice, fairness, and law. Courts cannot overlook illegal actions from police officers in an attempt of performing an arrest. It is in your best interest to be represented by an experienced, skilled, and dedicated criminal defense lawyer who can help you defend your constitutional rights.
If the Police Came to Your Door, Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help
If you or a loved one was a victim of an unlawful, unreasonable search and seizure, we may be able to help. The New Jersey criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych can help you defend and uphold your constitutional rights. We have the knowledge and skill to protect you against an illegal search and seizure. To discuss your case in a free, confidential consultation, call our law offices today at (619) 616-4981.