What do you do when police are knocking at your door? I would like to share five things that you should consider if you are ever in a situation where law enforcement is outside your residence.
1. The first rule is to never open the door. I say this because in our homes we have the greatest expectation of privacy. After our physical body, the home is next in terms of our expectation of privacy. All the protections such as the doors, the walls, the locks, are there to safeguard you. There is no legal obligation to open the door, talk to the police, or entertain the police, and you certainly do not have to let them in your home.
If you do open that door, there are several things that can happen. I have witnessed cases where just cracking the door led to police sliding their foot in and forcing that door open. Additionally, once you open that door you become visible, which gives police the opportunity to identify you. Let's say there is a question as to the identity of a particular perpetrator of a crime, and you have opened your door for police. This can be detrimental if you are arrested or have charges brought against you, as the officer can now say, “Yes, I went to 5335 Mulberry Lane and had a conversation with Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones opened the door, and I saw him face to face.” Just because police come to your address does not necessarily mean that you are the person on the other side of the door. Do not give them the opportunity to find out who is on the other side of the door.
When you open the door to police, you are inviting eyes into your home that have been trained to be observant and to look for clues to a crime. If you open the door for them you are giving them a chance to spot any contraband, drugs, etc., that might be in your home. Anything they witness in your home might be brought up on the stand later and could incriminate you. Sometimes, just opening the door is enough for the police to take the things they have observed and use them to obtain an actual warrant.
2. It is vital to realize that just because you are at home, you should never relax and have a conversation with police from behind the door. Confessions can still be made from behind a closed door, so make sure you always exercise your right to remain silent. You can tell the officers, “I understand that you are just trying to do your job, but I am going to exercise my right to remain silent. Unless you have a valid search warrant signed by a judge, I will not be opening my door.”
3. Another mistake people make is being persuaded to come talk outside. They may have done the first two things very well; they did not open the door and they did not make any statements. Sometimes though, the police will switch tactics and say, “You know what Mr. Jones? You are right, we don't need to come in. How about we go back to our squad car on the street, and you can come outside on the porch or sidewalk to talk to us.” They may also suggest that if you are not comfortable talking in your home, you might be willing to come down to the station to talk instead. Both proposals are bad ideas, and you should never leave the comfort and safety of your home to step outside or go down to any police station.
4. If the police have a search warrant you should always request to see the search warrant. If they do have one, there are ways they can figure out how to get it to you, such as sliding it under the door. When you are inspecting the search warrant, be sure to look at the date to make sure it is current. You will also want to look at what it says. Is it an arrest warrant to arrest a person in the home? Is it a search warrant to search a particular area for particular things? Lastly, you should look to see if it has been signed by a judge.
5. You should get on the phone and call an attorney while the police are still on the other side of your door. Any attorney should be able to tell you what you need to do and how to handle the situation. Even though you may have read this, when police are pounding at your door and you are under that amount of pressure, your mind might go blank! Put your attorney or an attorney's number in your phone, so if anything like this ever happens you know who to call.
If you have any other questions about this, please reach out to me.