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Can you refuse to allow the police inside your home?

Two police officers show up at your front door. They knock and, when you answer, they tell you that they need to come inside and have a look around. 

The way that they say it makes it feel like you have to comply. These officers are clearly used to being in authority, and they speak in statements, not questions. It doesn’t even sound like you’re being given options. But do you actually have to let them in, or can you tell them to stay outside?

If the police don’t have a warrant, they need your consent

You absolutely do not have to let the police enter your home under normal circumstances. If they do not have a warrant to come inside, which was issued by a judge, then they need your consent. They cannot legally enter your home without it. They can’t arrest you for telling them they’re not allowed to come in and look around. Even if they try to intimidate you, you are fully within your rights to deny them entry. 

Now, if the police do have a warrant, then you have to let them inside. You should ask for the warrant and read it before you do. It may be fairly specific; for instance, it may say they can search your living room, but not every part of your home. 

There are also a few exceptions where officers can enter without a warrant or consent. Generally, these are just emergencies, such as if they’re pursuing a suspect, if there is a danger to the public or if they think the evidence of a crime is being destroyed. They can also come inside if they see evidence of a crime in process.

Were you arrested after a warrantless search of your home?

If you do get arrested, it’s very important to know if the officers acted legally or not. If they did not, it can have a massive impact on your criminal defense options. Working with a defense attorney is key to your future.