Law enforcement officials obtain a significant amount of the evidence needed to prosecute people for criminal activity through searches of homes, persons, and vehicles. Knowing this, many homeowners, renters, and other residents ask, “Do I have to let police into my home?” Being aware of your rights against unlawful search and seizure can help in situations that require you to protect those rights. If your constitutional rights may have been violated during a home search, consider contacting an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer at Jason S. English Law, PLLC by calling (512) 454-7548 to schedule a consultation.
Reasons the Police Might Show Up at Someone's Home
There are many reasons for law enforcement to show up at a person's home. Some of the more common reasons include:
- When officers are hoping to investigate a potential suspect
- When officers are serving an arrest warrant or a search warrant
- When officers are responding to a 911 call from a neighbor or resident of the home
- When officers are hoping to question potential witnesses to a criminal offense
When the Police Can Legally Enter a Person's Home
Police officers have the authority to enter someone's home if they believe another person is in danger or injured or if they have an arrest warrant or a search warrant for someone who is a resident of the home. Officers can also enter the home if the owner verbally gives them permission to do so. Generally, third parties do not have the authority to consent to the search of a home on the homeowner's behalf.
The parties who do have the authority to consent are not required to give their consent to house searches. If they consent, they have the additional authority to tell law enforcement officers which rooms can be searched. They also have the option to withdraw their consent at any time. For this reason, police officers may require the homeowner or resident to sign a consent to search form or agree to the house search being recorded on video.
Rights Regarding the Search of a Person's Home
The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. Therefore, if a person revokes or does not give his or her consent for law enforcement to conduct a search of the home, any search conducted without a warrant could be a violation of the person's constitutional rights. Any evidence that was illegally obtained may be suppressed at trial. A dedicated criminal defense attorney at Jason S. English Law, PLLC, can help determine if charges were based on a constitutional rights violation.
Who Can Give Consent To Search?
Only specific parties have the authority to give consent to police officers to search a home. These include the following:
- Residents, including roommates, as long as they are giving consent over areas that they have control over or access to
- Guests who have joint access to, use, or control over parts of specific areas of a home
- Children generally cannot give consent to search a home; however, the court may consider the child's age and the child's use of the home when determining whether he or she has the authority to give consent to house searches
- Housekeepers and nannies generally do not have the authority to give consent to the search of a home unless they live in the home and, therefore, have the authority to authorize specific areas of the home for a search
What If Police Officers Enter a Home Without Permission?
In most cases, law enforcement agencies are required to knock and announce themselves before they enter a home with or without a warrant. If a police officer enters a home without permission, any person present should remember not to argue or resist arrest. Compliance with law enforcement orders is critical to ensure personal safety. However, if the police enter a home without permission and without a warrant, the homeowners or residents have the authority to verbally refuse entry and request contact information for the officers and an incident number.
When Do Police Have the Authority To Enter Without a Warrant?
There are some times when the police may have the authority to conduct a search without the homeowner's permission and without a warrant. If you are asking do I have to let police into my home, then consider the following exigent circumstances:
- There is evidence that a serious criminal offense is occurring in the home
- The evidence of a serious criminal offense must be obtained immediately because it may be destroyed or lost
- Police must enter a home to protect a victim from suffering serious bodily injury or death
- Officers are actively pursuing someone who they are going to arrest, also known as being in “hot pursuit”
- Emergency medical care is needed for someone inside the home
- Law enforcement must investigate after a 911 call
- A gunshot was heard inside the home
- An alleged victim of domestic abuse or assault needs help to safely remove personal belongings from the home
- Animals are in immediate physical distress due to neglect, abuse, injury, or illness
- A child must be removed from the home because of abuse or neglect
- A homeowner or other appropriate party gives permission to enter the home
Can Police Destroy Property During Searches?
Law enforcement officials are required to provide the homeowner or resident with a copy of the search warrant if one was issued. They will also provide a receipt for any items that are seized during the police search. According to the Fifth Amendment, the United States government is responsible for compensating property owners when their property is taken or damaged by the state. Victims of property damage caused by either unlawful or valid home searches by law enforcement officials may have the opportunity to file a civil lawsuit against the agency or officer to recover damages for the destroyed property.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Austin, Texas, Today
Anyone who suspects that law enforcement did not have the right to conduct a search of their home, person, or vehicle may have a powerful defense at trial. Have you found yourself asking, “Do I have to let police into my home?” If evidence in your case may have been illegally obtained, consider contacting a skilled Austin criminal defense lawyer at Jason S. English Law, PLLC, by calling (512) 454-7548 to schedule a confidential review of your case today.