What to do When an Officer Comes Knocking at Your Door?

March 21, 2024 – Published by Robinson Law Firm

You’re having a party or other social gathering when you hear a knock on the door. You’re surprised.  You weren’t expecting anybody, but you go and answer. When you open the door, you’re greeted by a police officer who says he would like to ask you a few questions about a crime they’re investigating and take a quick look around the inside of your home. What do you do?

Here are the quick answers:

  • Make sure you’re polite to the officer.
  • Ask for the officer’s name and telephone number where he can be reached.
  • Tell the officer that you’ll need to contact your attorney first before giving him an answer, and either you or your attorney will contact him in a timely manner.
  • Politely close the door and end the contact.
  • Call The Robinson Law Firm for legal advice.

Generally speaking, the police cannot enter and search your home unless they have an arrest or search warrant or your consent to enter and search your home.  When officers do not have an arrest or search warrant, they will often do a “knock and talk.”  This is a practice where officers, acting without an arrest or search warrant, knock on the front door of a residence in order to question the residents and obtain their consent to search the home.

There are limitations on the “knock and talk” practice.  The officers must only approach the front door of the residence, knock promptly, wait briefly to be received, and then, absent an invitation to stay longer, leave.  The right to approach the front door and do a “knock and talk” does not include the right to search the yard of the home or to speak to house guests after the officers have been asked to leave.  Using a drug-sniffing dog on the homeowner’s porch is not permissible as it constitutes a search within the Fourth Amendment.

A search of your home is permissible after a “knock and talk” provided you consent to the same.  Officers will often use express or implicit threats to obtain your consent during a “knock and talk.”  For example, unless you consent, they will station officers there until other officers can go and obtain a search warrant.  You should not consent under any circumstances.  Your consent to search is only valid when there is clear evidence that your consent was given freely, understandingly, and unequivocally.  Your consent cannot be the product of duress, coercion, or threats.  Two factors that strengthen an argument that your consent was not valid are efforts to prevent officers from entering your home and the officer’s coercive tactics, including drawn weapons, raised voices, or intimidating demands.

If the officer has a search warrant, you must allow the officer into your home to carry out the search warrant. However, you should ask for a copy of the search warrant. Remember you do not have to answer any questions and should not do so while the officers search your home. You should exercise your Miranda Right to remain silent, keeping in mind that anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. Before the officers leave your house, ask for a list of all the items taken as a result of the search.

Finally, if you look outside before you answer the door and observe officers, you do not have to open the door.  The exception to this instruction is if the officers are announcing they have a search warrant to search your home.  Then, follow the instructions noted above.

If this has happened to you or you have other questions about your rights, please feel free to contact us at The Robinson Law Firm at (252) 758-4100.  We can help.