If the police show up at your door and ask to come inside, they are giving you a choice. However, many people don’t really feel like it’s a choice. They assume that they have to let the police in because they are in a position of authority. If they refuse, they may also assume that the police will just force their way in.
But is this actually how it works? Most of the time, it is not. You often have the right to deny law enforcement officers entry into your residence.
Do they have a warrant?
First and foremost, the two main ways that police can enter someone’s home are either by executing a search warrant or by getting their consent. So, it may be wise to just ask the police officers if they have a warrant at the time that they request entry if you would prefer that they not come in.
If they do, then they’re going to be allowed to enter, because a judge has already ruled that they can. But if they do not, then they do need your consent unless highly-specific emergency-related circumstances apply to the situation. You don’t have to consent otherwise. If you tell the police not to come inside, it would almost certainly be a violation of your rights for them to force their way past you if they don’t have a warrant.
What is a warrantless search?
There are some cases in which a warrantless search can be carried out. Generally, such searches may only be performed in an emergency. Maybe the police believe that there’s a danger to the public, that evidence is being destroyed or that someone they were chasing just entered the building. They may be able to perform a search without a warrant and without your consent.
If they do, then the key thing to keep in mind is that they will still have to prove after the fact that this search was justified. If they can’t do so, then it may call any evidence they gather into question. This is known as the fruit of the poisonous tree. Even if the evidence would’ve led to a conviction, if it was illegally obtained, then it can’t be used in court.
As you can see, criminal cases are often much more complicated than people assume. The police certainly may have violated your rights if they forced their way into your home without a warrant or your consent, and you’ll need to know about your legal options if they did.