We see it in the movies all the time; the police knocking on a door and then barging in with a battering ram accompanied by a tactical SWAT team all dressed in dark colors. In real life what we should take note of is the search warrant which the police carry as they enter the home (i.e. the document signed by a justice of the peace or a judge that gives the police the right to enter your home and to conduct a search). The search warrant is a court order which specifically gives the police the right to enter your property to conduct a search and seizure.
A search warrant can be used to investigate where there are “reasonable and probable grounds” to believe there is criminal activity taking place on private property and a search will afford evidence of same. It provides authorization for the police to legally search for and confiscate illegal weapons, drugs, or other illegal contraband and investigate any other form of illegality that they have reasonable and probable grounds to believe is occurring on the premises. Individuals can be detained and property can be held as evidence for the entire length of the investigation. If your home or business has been searched pursuant to a search warrant, you should contact a criminal defence lawyer who has the right knowledge and experience in “search and seizure” law to ensure that you protect yourself and your rights. A search warrant itself can often be successfully challenged by your lawyer later during court proceedings (and this can either validate or refute the evidence found). A successful challenge can often lead to all of the charges being thrown out in court as the evidence found is excluded from being used at the trial.
If you have called the police for the purpose of obtaining their help, then you have given them permission to come to your property and in some cases, enter if they suspect your physical condition is preventing you from letting them in. Under normal circumstances, the police only have the “implied right” to come as far as your front door but no further. Here, you have a choice whether to answer their knocking or to invite them in. You are under no obligation to speak with them and can refuse to do so. It is your choice whether you want to speak to them or let them in your house to search (i.e. called a “consent” search). In other words, if they do not have a search warrant, you can refuse to consent to a search of your home or property and the police are therefore not allowed to search your property. If they do not have a search warrant, you can absolutely refuse the police entry to your home.
If you have decided to allow the police access to your home, you should be aware that an invitation to come inside is not the same as an invitation to search. However, the police are trained to be highly aware of their surroundings and can observe illegal activity or contraband without necessarily physically searching. For example, if they see weapons, drugs, or other contraband in “plain view”, this may allow them to search your property. This is why at Kruse Law Firm we cannot stress enough the importance of speaking with a lawyer before entertaining any decision to allow the police to enter your home without a search warrant. You can easily jeopardize your case by allowing entry to your premises even if it is an attempt to prove you have nothing to hide.
Your house isn’t the only place that falls under the right of privacy. If you have a yard or open area that is part of your property, it automatically falls under the same category. However, Items discarded, such as your trash, are not considered to be private. If you have your garbage cans out, literally anyone, including the police, is free to look through them. This is why it is very important not only for people who are engaging in criminal activity but even for law-abiding citizens, to properly dispose of personal information before dumping it in the trash. Shredding documents is a good form of personal protection.
If for any reason you or someone you know has been in a situation where your house is about to be searched or has already been searched by the police, contact one of our criminal defence lawyers at Kruse Law Firm immediately for a free initial consultation. We are experts in all facets of criminal law including the complex area of search and seizure law. Allow us to guide you step by step through this entire ordeal and help get your life back in order.