Seeing a police officer at your door is enough to make anyone’s heart skip a beat.
Whether you think you know why the police are there or not, the same set of laws, rights, and protections apply.
Invoking your rights at such a critical time can potentially save you from criminal arrest, having your property seized, and various charges. We want you to be prepared in case an officer from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Conroe Police, or another local department ever does wind up at your house or apartment.
The legal team at The Webb Firm, P.C. has compiled some tips on how to best protect yourself in this situation. Here's what you should know...
Do not open the door
It’s a good habit to always ask who is at your door before letting someone in.
Just because the police are at your door does not mean you have to open it. If you open the door and an officer sees something in “plain sight” that they think looks suspicious, the police officer can usually enter your home without your consent and seize it. Once inside, the police officer can confiscate other “suspicious” property that is out in plain sight and hold it as evidence against you.
Keep in mind that if you invite an officer into your home, even just to sit down and talk, they may be scanning your home for evidence to seize.
Protect your privacy
If you are going to speak with a police officer, it's always best to talk to them outside of your home. You can step outside and close the door behind you or speak to them through the space a chain lock creates between your door and wall. To protect your privacy even further you can exit from another door, where there are no officers, then walk over to have a conversation with the officer(s) at your door.
When engaging with the police be calm and respectful to keep a situation from escalating, but say as little as possible.
Do not assume you know why the police are there
Often, a police officer at your door is investigating something else, not you. The officer may be looking for information about a neighbor or seeking witnesses for a car accident. The officer could also be at your door for something simple like a noise complaint, or maybe your vehicle is blocking a driveway.
But there are times when the police are there to investigate you or they think something illegal is happening in your home.
No warrant, no entry
It doesn’t matter if an officer thinks you’re doing something illegal in your home or if they say they have “probable cause” - in general, an officer cannot enter your home without your consent unless they have a search warrant.
In most cases, if an officer wants to enter your home and they do not have a search warrant, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution allows you to deny them entry.
A search warrant gives police the authority to enter your home for very specific purposes that will be outlined on the document. A legal warrant will be signed by a judge and include the address to be searched.
If an officer says they have a search warrant, ask them to slip it under the door or hold it up to the window so that you can inspect it.
If there is no search warrant, say nothing except that you cannot let them in without one.
Say as little as possible
You do not have to answer an officer’s questions. Do not lie or provide false information. If the police are searching your home or have attempted to enter it, contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Many lawyers, including The Webb Firm, P.C., offer free case consultations.
Educate the people in your home about their rights
Anyone who lives at your home or has a key to the property can let an officer inside without your consent. Make sure the people you live with know that they do not have to let the police inside, or even open the door for officers, unless they come with a signed search warrant.
For added protection, you can lock your room or privately secure your property so that you are the only one with access. This creates an “expectation of privacy.”
If police are allowed entry by a housemate or landlord and bust into your locked room or storage, in most circumstances a lawyer will be able to argue that your right to privacy was violated and any “evidence” collected cannot be used against you.
When can a police officer enter my home without a warrant or my consent?
A police officer can force entry into your home without a warrant under rare circumstances, including:
- To save a person in imminent danger from being seriously injured or killed
- To investigate a 911 call
- To execute an arrest warrant, but only if they have reason to believe the person on the warrant is inside the dwelling
We defend clients from all types of criminal charges
If the police are investigating you, executed a search warrant at your home, or you’ve already been charged with a crime, you should contact a lawyer immediately to protect your rights.
The longer you go without counsel, the more likely you are to provide the police with a statement or property that they can twist into evidence against you.
The Webb Firm, P.C. has been defending the people of Montgomery County and the surrounding area for more than 10 years against misdemeanor and felony charges, including those involving theft, fraud, burglary, drug violations, assault, driving while intoxicated, sex offenses, and other crimes.
Prior to opening her own practice, attorney Amanda Webb was an assistant district attorney in Montgomery County, Texas. She knows how the prosecution thinks and the strategies they use to press convictions on people, and she knows how to tear apart a seemingly solid case prepared by the state.
Make the smart decision and contact us today at our office in Conroe, TX for a free consultation.