Criminal Defense Lawyer

Sometimes it may be difficult to know what our rights are as citizens. Generally, during times of interaction with police officers, our default may be to consent to every request that a police officer asks so as to make our lives easier. If we have nothing to hide, then it may seem like there is no problem with consenting to a police officer. Though this may seem like the path of least resistance, it is important to know when you have a choice in the matter, and when you have to acquiesce to police officers’ requests.

The Fourth Amendment: Warrant Rule

The hard and fast rule (though there are always exceptions to the rule) is the rights supplied to us from the Fourth Amendment in the Constitution, which protects us from government intrusion into our houses, persons, vehicles, and papers. The rule requires that police officers get a warrant, issued by a magistrate, once the police officers have made a showing that they have probable cause to believe that evidence may be found within the area that they would like to search.

The Exceptions to the Rule

A police officer entering someone’s home or private property without a warrant is unreasonable. That is the default rule that helps protect people’s rights. There are, however, exceptional circumstances where a police officer does not need a warrant; in other words, there is a dangerous or criminal situation occurring, also known as “exigent circumstances,” that requires immediate action on the officer’s part, and time spent getting a warrant would end up causing more harm than good.

These identified exigent circumstances are the exceptions to the no-entry rule, and police officers must later prove that they had a belief that something criminal or dangerous was happening (also known as “probable cause”) and that there was evidence to be found on the scene.

Exigent Circumstances

Police officers may only enter private property immediately and without a warrant when:

  • The officers believe that someone is in need of help or aid
  • The officers believe that entry is required to protect themselves from people who they reasonably believe are armed and dangerous and on the premises
  • The officers believe that evidence of a crime or contraband is about to be destroyed. Police officers, in this situation, must point to facts that can demonstrate that their belief that the evidence or contraband was about to be removed or destroyed was reasonable, and most important, imminent. Only then would their actions to intrude into a person’s property be considered reasonable. One factor that a police officer might try to prove is that the person knew that the officer was on his/her trail.

These are the limited circumstances in which police officers may enter into your home without a warrant. Without these exceptions, citizens are within their rights to not permit police officers into their homes, unless the officers present a warrant that is bolstered by probable cause.

Exigent circumstances may be difficult to evaluate and as a citizen, you may not know the reason why a police officer is attempting to enter your premises. If the police enter your home, with or without a warrant, please contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Rockville, MD as soon as possible. A criminal defense attorney will be able to assess the facts of your situation and help protect you from unreasonable police intrusion into your home.

Thanks to Daniel J. Wright for their insight into criminal defense and police intrusion.