The US Constitution protects us from the law enforcement brutality that routinely occurs in other countries, but it pays to understand your rights. There are only limited circumstances under which the police can barge into your home to perform a search without a warrant. There are also varying scenarios under which permission to search property can be granted upon a knock at the door by law enforcement officers. For an overview of some common warrant and search situations, read on.
No Warrant Needed
Under certain circumstances, law enforcement may enter certain premises or a residence without the need for a warrant or permission. These cases are few and far between, however. Law enforcement must have a clear indication that a life is in danger before they can do so. For example, if they have good information that a missing child is being held in a certain home, they have a right to enter the home using any means necessary. The same goes for when they see a body through the window or hear someone scream. This type of entrance by law enforcement may be known as a no-knock warrant.
Armed With Search Warrants
A search warrant provides law enforcement with permission to enter and search a home without the owner's or lease-holder's permission. Warrants are seldom issued without good cause and must be approved of by a judge. Law enforcement must apply for a warrant by listing their reasons and they must present the warrant to the homeowner when they enter. There is no use fighting or arguing with a warrant – you must allow the search. Be sure, however, to read the warrant and note its scope about where they can and cannot search.
Who Can Allow Entry?
If you are not at home, law enforcement must return when you are at home. They may not enter without presentation of the warrant. The way the warrant can be presented varies, however. Please note that:
- Children under the age of 18 may or may not be recognized as being able to accept a warrant. If they are old enough to be left home alone, they may be considered old enough. They do not have to be 18 to allow a search as long as they are among the occupants of the home. Babysitters, nannies, and housekeepers have no power to accept a search warrant.
- Domestic workers may only allow searches if they actually reside in the home. Day workers are not considered residents. If a domestic worker resides in the home, however, they may only allow searches in their own private quarters – not the entire home.
- Domestic partners usually have full authority to allow searches since they reside in the home. They do not necessarily need to be on the deed, mortgage or lease to do so.
You have certain rights and you may need to challenge illegal searches that resulted in an arrest. Speak to a criminal defense firm to find out more.