Can the police enter my house?
Yes. However, only with a valid search and/or an arrest warrant. Absent having a warrant, a police officer must have “exigent circumstances” to justify entering someone’s premises. This may be the case if they get a phone call with information that someone inside may be injured in some form or fashion.
Prior to conducting a search of an individual’s home, the police officer must provide the person with a copy of a valid search warrant. If the officer does not have a valid search warrant or does not have sufficient probable cause (or no “exigent circumstance” exists, or no crime has been witnessed in “plain view”) – then they have no legal authority to enter and search someone’s premises.
Regardless, the United States Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that an individual has a heightened expectation of privacy in their home. Therefore, generally speaking, police need a search warrant to enter.
If the police do have a valid search warrant that specifically lists your address and home as the premises to be searched, then they can enter and conduct the search.
Police can only enter, however, and search your home WITHOUT a warrant under limited conditions, such as:
- If you, or your roommate, provides verbal consent to a search;
- If the police officer witnesses contraband or illegal activity in plain sight, such as through an open door or window (i.e. weapons, possible violence, drugs, etc.);
- If you have been arrested based on “probable cause” or a warrant at your home, the officer has the authority to search you and your home for contraband, weapons, and any other possible illegal activity
- If there is an emergency; such as chasing a felon that enters into someone’s residence, medical emergencies, domestic violence (or physical violence, where an officer hears noise from the premises indicating an individual may be in danger.
If Police Come to Your Home
The police can enter your home without your permission if they have a warrant or if it is an emergency. If the police say they have a warrant, ask to see it. Check to make sure the warrant has the correct address.
If you are arrested in your home or office, the police can search you and the area immediately surrounding you or where evidence of criminal activity is in plain view.