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Can the police ever enter without a search warrant?

On Behalf of | Jun 25, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

It’s clear that search warrants do not give police officers the ability to do whatever they want. There are many restrictions that both homeowners and officers need to be aware of, including different ways in which the scope of a search warrant can be limited. It’s very important for officers to follow the instructions in any such order.

Getting a valid search warrant allows officers permission to come into your home, but are there other reasons why they could enter your house in a legally-permissible way? Is there any way that they could enter without getting a warrant at all, potentially removing the limitations imposed by the execution of a warrant?

Emergency situations

In some cases, it is true that the police can enter a home if they deem it to be an emergency situation. Maybe they think evidence is being destroyed or a crime is in process. Maybe they are pursuing a suspect who entered the home, and there’s no time to get a warrant.

If the police do use an emergency to justify entering a house, they will still have to prove that their search was justified later. They’ll have to show that there was a reason to enter the home and that they didn’t have time to get a warrant and act in accordance within the ordinary confines of the law. It is certainly true that the police may believe that they had justification when they actually didn’t.

Seeking your consent

Police may also just ask for your consent to come into the house. Once you give it to them, although you are allowed to take it back, then they no longer need a warrant. For this reason, police officers will sometimes visit homeowners, fully knowing that they don’t have the evidence necessary to get a warrant and search a house. But they will talk to the homeowner and see if they can get consent to “just take a look around”. They can then seize items that they find in plain view or use this as justification to do a further search of the home.

It is critical that the police follow the law carefully. If you believe they may have violated your rights when executing a search, be sure you know what steps to take to safeguard your rights. Seeking legal guidance is a good place to start.