Don’t I have to let the police in the house when they ask? Or, don’t I have to come outside when the police ask me to? I have been hearing these questions for years. My answer has always been the same, “No”. We do not have to talk to the police when they come to our door. We do not have to open the door for the police. If we do, we are subjecting ourselves to what we commonly refer to as a consensual encounter. This means that we are volunteering to talk to the police. Please don’t do this. Don’t do it as your home and don’t do it on the street. Remember, if the police had probable cause or a warrant to arrest you, they will do it anyway. Talking to the police only gives law enforcement more ammunition to use against you.
But can’t the police come inside anyway? No, they cannot come into your home with a search warrant or in limited circumstances if they are investigating a crime that was recently alleged. We often here the legal term “hot pursuit”. In the case of a hot pursuit police could enter a home to pursue a fleeing felon or to stop in imminent crime. Also, police may enter a home to conduct a necessary investigation after the complaint of a crime. For example, if there is a 911 call of a woman screaming or if an officer arrives at a home to hear screaming, that officer may lawfully enter the home to determine if a crime is being or has recently been committed.
Take note that once an officer lawfully enters a home, anything he hears or anything he finds in his “plain view” can be used against the residents. This is what we call the “Plain view doctrine”. When police are lawfully in a place, whether it is a home or business or other location, they may naturally make observations around them. Thus, if officers respond to your home on a 911 call of a woman screaming and locked in a bedroom, expect that police will come out, enter the home and look around the bedrooms to investigate the allegations. If, while in the bedroom police see your assault rifle sticking out from under the bed or some drugs or other contraband on a nightstand, they will likely take it and investigate its source. Thereafter, you will be placed under arrest and have to answer for your indiscretions.
Even if an arrest is not immediate, at the very least, an officer will be able to use the information that he sees to obtain a search warrant. Then a fleet of officers will come back with court authority to search the entire house, office, car etc., and nobody wants that to happen.
The moral to the story is, be nice to the officer and politely ask to speak with your lawyer. Do not consent to any search and do not let police inside your home, office or vehicle without a search warrant.
If you have more questions about your rights and what to do when the police contact you, call me, Attorney Jeffrey Vallens (818) 783-5700 or (888) 764-4340 or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.