If you watch enough crime dramas on television, you probably know that a search warrant is required for police to search your home. But, TV isn’t always about real life, and sometimes it’s just dramatic additions to an actual scenario. What your rights are and what you should do when an officer asks to search your home isn’t common knowledge. And it is something that can land you in lots of trouble.
Can Your Home Be Searched Without a Warrant?
Yes and no. A warrant is required for a search, in general. There are a few circumstances where they are not. If someone asks to search your home, request a warrant. If they do not have one, you do not have to let them. They will need to let you know of any reason they require access to your home.
When Is A Warrant Not Needed?
If you give them consent. Police cannot just walk up to your door, knock and force their way in. Also, they can’t demand to be let it under any authority they may have. They can ask to search the premises, but you are not obligated to allow them. If you do not give them consent, they cannot enter and search. So, if you ever answer the door and the police ask, just say no. They will have to have a warrant, after that.
If an officer sees something in plain view that is illegal, they can seize it for evidence. For example, if you agree to let them into your home to talk and they see drugs, the drugs can be used as evidence against you. This is why people always say that even if you have nothing to hide, it is best to ask for a warrant before allowing police into your home. If you need to talk to them, you can step outside or meet them elsewhere.
Should the police arrest you, they can search your home. This is mostly to make sure that there are no other persons that are a threat. But, this is also to prevent the destruction of any evidence that may pertain to your prosecution.
Exigent Circumstance is an exception that means obtaining a warrant could lead to the destruction of proof or could be a detriment to public safety. This tends to be relevant in “hot pursuit” cases.
What Do You Do If Police Search Your Home
Getting a warrant isn’t always as hard as it seems. That is one of the biggest differences between TV and real life. TV shows don’t tell you what to do when the police show up at your door with a warrant. Furthermore, you should never take legal advice from your favorite show.
Ask the officers for identification. You will want to make sure they are actual officers. Take note of any information on the identification. Then, ask for an explanation. There has to be a reason they obtained a warrant, and it has to be a good one if it was issued. You will want to know where they are looking and what they are looking for. Ask to see the warrant. You will want to read it and make sure what they say matches the information in the document.
Make it clear and be sure they affirm that you are not consenting to have your home searched. You want them to know that you are only consenting to the search because they have a warrant. Write down details of the search, as soon as possible and in as much detail as you can. You will want names, the time and date, any details you can remember from the identification you were provided and all of the information you derived from the warrant. It may even be helpful to ask if you can take a photo of their IDs and the order. You may need all of this information, later.
Contact an Attorney
If an officer wants to search your home, call your attorney. You can start here. They will let you know what to do and what to say. If you have a lawyer, they can come to you and be there to make sure you don’t miss, do or say anything that can cause problems later. Without one, you will be at the mercy of the police. You can read more about what your rights are and what you should do here. But, there is always more to it than that. If one of the exceptions applies, you will want an attorney on your side to make sure they aren’t taking advantage of you or the situation. And an extra set of eyes is always helpful to have. Especially when those eyes know the law and how it works!