Have you ever been relaxing at home when a sudden, unexpected knock at your door catches your attention? Situations like this can immediately cause unrest, especially because you weren't planning on having any visitors, so you're not sure what's going on or who is on the other side of your door. If you live in a neighborhood where it's common for people to pop in unannounced, it's probably no big deal.
What should you do, however, if, as you make your way to the door, you get a glimpse through a nearby window and see what appears to be several uniformed police officers standing on your front porch? Do you open the door? Must you let them in if they ask to come inside? It could be that they have the wrong address. However, it might be something far more serious, in which case, how well you know your rights may impact the outcome of the situation.
Ask to see a warrant
When you open your door to greet police officers, you do not have to open your door all the way. Once you make contact, they may say they'd like to come in and take a look around or that they are searching for a specific person they believe is at your residence. If they want to search your home, you may ask to see a warrant. If they do not show you one, you can step outside your house and close the door behind you, then decline to consent to the search.
If they show you a warrant
Just because police show you a document they say is a warrant to search your home or a warrant for someone's arrest, this doesn't mean the claim meets the reality. Request to read the warrant and make sure it is, in fact, your address listed on the document or, if they are looking for a person who lives with you, that his or her name is on the arrest warrant.
If an officer threatens arrest
Most police officers know how to intimidate people when they feel the need. They may not like the fact that you refuse to sign a consent to search your home. It is never a good idea to sign something you don't understand or something with which you are not in agreement, especially if you know your rights protect you from having to do so. Any consent signed under threat of arrest is not voluntary.
In some situations, police may search your home even if you refuse to consent. For instance, if they have chased you or another person or people to the location, if they claim to hear someone calling for help from inside, or if some other emergency situation is unfolding that they deem necessary to take action. If you believe a police officer has violated your rights, you may reach out for legal support at any time.