This is a common question that I encounter as a criminal defense attorney. Can the police enter my house with a warrant?
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides, "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
The primary goal of this amendment is to protect citizen's right to privacy and freedom from arbitrary governmental intrusions. In most cases, this right cannot be violated without a warrant that is based on probable cause. But there are a number of recognized exceptions by the United States Supreme Court.
Many law enforcement agencies conduct what is called "knock and talk" investigation. The officer knocks and the door and speaks to the person at the door and often requests consent to enter.
As a citizen of the United States, you have every right to refuse the consent and then politely close the door on the officer. To determine whether the Fourth Amendment applies in your matter, consider as follows:
- Do you have an expectation of privacy, and
- Is this expectation recognized by society as being subjectively reasonable?
- You should never consent to the search of your home where the officers do not have a warrant except when the many exceptions apply:
The "plain view doctrine" would apply where law enforcement sees contraband in plain sight through your window.
Another example is where law enforcement is answering a noise complaint and while there he has probable cause to believe that a search will uncover some type of criminal activity. The officer knocks on the door and when you open the door he says he smell marijuana. This would give officer probable to enter your home. Important to note is the fact you do not have to open the door wide enough to see or smell anything.
The "exigent circumstances" exception may apply where the officer believes that the evidence could be lost or destroyed by the time a warrant is obtained and would require a probable cause analysis to allow entrance.
The exceptions to the warrant become even more blurry when you are in a fraternity or sorority house because these as usually owned by the university. Accordingly, your right of privacy may be lessened.
Know your rights and confirm your rights and potential defenses by calling William Wayne Housley at 662-844-5635.
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