When the police knock at your door, they will usually ask you to come inside. Once they have your permission, they will start casually looking around to see if they can find something that will provide them with a reason to keep searching.
Knowing that you don’t have to let the police inside your home is important, as it allows you to protect yourself during a surprise interaction with law enforcement. However, while you do have protection from the unreasonable search of your home if you don’t consent to it, there are scenarios in which police officers could search your home without your permission. What are some of those situations?
When they have probable cause to suspect criminal activity
If a police officer hears, sees or even smells something that directly suggests criminal activity, they can force their way onto private property without any sort of permission.
Hearing the sounds of gunfire from outside, smelling chemicals associated with drug manufacturing or seeing someone hit someone else through a window could all give the police grounds to enter private property. Even hearing noises like a paper shredder that leads to suspicions of evidence destruction could justify the police entering a property without permission.
When they are in active pursuit of someone
The police can and do enter private property because they have pursued a suspect from elsewhere. Often, such pursuits involve yards or exterior spaces, but sometimes police officers will force their way into a home if they believe someone they have chased is now inside. Forcing entry to apprehend a suspect could lead to a search and the arrest of other people present at the property as well.
When they have a warrant
Occasionally, police officers already have some kind of probable cause to suspect criminal activity or evidence of a crime at your property. If they can convince a judge with the information they have, the judge may sign a search warrant that allows them to look for that evidence.
Without probable cause or a warrant, police officers typically cannot force themselves into your home. Knowing your rights and when the police have violated them can help protect you against criminal charges.