There is nothing quite as gut-wrenching as opening your front door and finding the police standing on the other side. They never bring good news.
Experiencing a moment of panic and indecision when they ask to be let in is perfectly natural. Questions that will likely run through your mind at this point include:
- Do they need a search warrant?
- Should you call a lawyer?
- Do you have to let them in?
- Should you shut the door without saying a word?
First, Stay Calm
No matter what happens, it’s in your best interest to stay calm. Losing your temper doesn’t do any good and it could actually make things much more difficult for them.
If They Don’t Have a Warrant
If the police don’t have a warrant, they can ask to search your home, but you don’t have to let them in. California law also prohibits the police from forcing their way into your home if they don’t have a warrant. However, if an officer knocks on your door and you open it enough for them to see something suspicious, say on the table behind you, they are allowed to seize the item without a warrant. Anything that is in plain view is basically fair game. That’s why so many lawyers recommend only opening the door a crack when the police knock.
As long as you’re polite and don’t do anything rash, the police can’t arrest you for denying them entry into your home when they’re unable to produce a warrant.
If They Have a Search Warrant
Police can’t get a search warrant just because they feel like going through your home. They have to be able to provide a judge with enough probable cause for the judge to justify issuing a search warrant.
If the police have a search warrant for your home, you are legally required to let them into your residence. What they can’t do is say they have a warrant and not show it to you. If they can’t produce the physical warrant, you don’t have to grant them access. The search warrant should include information about where the police are allowed to search.
Things the police can’t legally do without a warrant include:
- Taking a DNA swab
- Searching outbuildings
- Going through your car
When the police have a search warrant in hand, they don’t have to wait for your lawyer to show up before they search your home. Still, it’s a good idea for you to contact your attorney right away so they know what is going on and advise you about the best way to proceed at this point.