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How to respond when the police knock on your door

When a party gets a little too loud and the guests get a little out of control, it may not take long before the police come knocking on your door. What you do next can be critical.

A lot of people don’t realize how strong their rights are when they’re inside their own homes. Your right against unreasonable searches and seizures is protected by the Fourth Amendment. You don’t want to do anything that could accidentally weaken that protection and lead to an unnecessary search of the premises. As a result, you’ll want to keep the following tips in mind.

Decide how you intend to talk to the police

You basically have two good options: You can speak to the police through your door or you can step outside, close the door behind you, and speak with them there. If you choose the latter, take a few steps away from your door so that the police have to move with you to talk. The reason for this is simple: If you speak to the police through an open door, they may seize on anything illegal (or potentially illegal) that they can see “in plain view” as an excuse to enter your home. That could lead to aggressive searches for illegal party drugs or drinkers who haven’t yet hit their 21st birthdays.

By speaking to them through the door, if possible, you don’t run any risk of that. Stepping outside, however, may seem like the more reasonable course of action – and a good way to resolve the issue that brought them to your door without further problems. Moving away from the door makes it easier to make sure that nobody inside suddenly flings the door, exposing everything inside to the officer’s view.

Don’t open your doors to the police without a warrant

If you’re throwing a party that’s gotten pretty loud, the odds are high that you already know why the police are there. Make sure that’s the reason, promise to turn down the music and apologize. Be prepared, however, for the officer to ask if it’s, “okay to look around” a little. At this point, you should politely but firmly say something like, “I’m sorry, but I can’t let you do that without a warrant.” This is your right, and you cannot be arrested simply for your refusal.

Unjustifiable and illegal searches take place every day, but it takes experienced legal guidance to know exactly how official overreach may play into your criminal case.