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Can the police force their way into your home to search?

On Behalf of | Nov 30, 2022 | Criminal Defense

When the police decide to search your home, you never know what they might find. Unless you live by yourself and built the home with your own two hands, there could be numerous items throughout the home that you don’t even know are there.

If you are the person on the lease or on the title for the property, the state may try to make a claim of constructive possession where they hold you accountable for items in your home because they assume you knew about and had control over those items.

Can you turn the police away when they want to search your house, or do you have to worry about them kicking in your front door to search even without your permission?

Numerous rules limit search options for the police

Police officers generally need to follow certain procedures if they want to search someone’s residence. One of the most important rules protecting you from unreasonable searches is the requirement that officers only search when they have permission, probable cause or a warrant.

If a judge agrees that police officers have a valid reason to search your home, they can issue a warrant that allows officers to enter your home with or without your consent. Many police searches of private residences take place because someone who lives at that home gave the officer’s permission.

Without consent or a warrant, officers can only search a private residence when they have probable cause. Probable cause means having a specific concern that makes an officer believe there is a crime in progress. Smelling drugs through the door or hearing sounds that imply the abuse of a vulnerable person or the destruction of evidence would give officers the right to enter a property without permission.

They can also force entry onto private property during a hot pursuit. Officers chasing someone from the scene of a crime can follow that person onto private property without a warrant or permission. However, the crime involved has to be serious enough to justify an officer continuing the pursuit. The Supreme Court has ruled in a way that effectively limits the rights of officers to enter private property because of a misdemeanor offense.

What if a search violated your rights?

In a scenario where a criminal defendant believes that police officers broke the law or violated their rights during the search process, those mistakes by law enforcement may influence the options for a defense. Evidence obtained because of an illegal search may not be useful for a prosecutor in criminal court.

Learning more about the rules that protect you after accusations of a criminal offense can help you determine the best way to defend yourself.