It can be shocking and frightening if police knock on your door in the middle of the night, requesting to come in to search your home. Do you have to let them in? What are your rights, especially if the police do not have a warrant?
Police need a search warrant
Generally, if the police want to search your home for drugs or other evidence of a crime without your permission, they need a search warrant. Warrants must be specific regarding the place and people to be searched and what potential evidence they are looking for.
The Fourth Amendment protects your right against warrantless searches, with some exceptions. This is to protect you from unreasonable searches and seizures. Evidence gathered in an unlawful search is considered “fruit of the poisonous tree” and cannot be used against you in a court case. Unfortunately, sometimes, warrantless searches and seizures are made in violation of your rights.
Reasonableness and the Fourth Amendment
Courts use a “reasonableness” test to determine if a search violated your Fourth Amendment rights. Warrantless searches must be reasonable under the circumstances.
In addition, if police are in “hot pursuit” of a suspected criminal, they may have an exception from the warrant requirement. Searches incident to arrest also do not require a warrant. If the police have a probable cause-based warrant to search your home, they also may search you and other people in the home.
Know your rights
Ultimately, you will want to make sure you know your Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures, especially if the police try to perform a warrantless search. Warrantless searches are generally illegal although there are exceptions. By knowing your rights, you can protect your best interests should you ultimately be charged with a crime.