On behalf of Johnson Litigation, PLLC
Your home is your castle, a place of safety and vulnerability. At the threshold of your home lies a line of privacy and protection. But what happens when those fundamental protections are violated by a Police Officer?
A Washington resident recently was at his home with a group of friends when Officers responded to the area. The Officers were responding to noises which they thought to be gunshots outside. When they arrived, they questioned two people outside of a residence. Other individuals, who were inside of the home, exercised their right of privacy by not answering the door.
A warrant was not obtained.
Officers observed an individual through a window who they believed needed medical attention. They used this observation as a basis for a forced entry into the home. However, once they entered the home, it was immediately evident that their assumption of medical attention was incorrect. The individual was not injured in any way.
Again, a warrant was not obtained.
Rather than stepping back out of the house and obtaining a warrant, Officers conducted an evidentiary search. Based upon this search, a resident was booked on drug and weapons charges.
Jason Johnson successfully fought these charges and obtained a complete dismissal. Here are some important points to know regarding your home.
You do not have to answer the door – or let anyone into your castle
One of the fundamental rights of our constitution is the right to privacy. Nowhere is this right more prevalent than in your home. We do not live in a military state which has complete authority to enter anyone’s home on a whim.
I have dealt with people who have consented to allow Officers into the home, not knowing the “true” reason why they are there.
If an Officer is at your door, chances are they are investigating something. Did you just have an argument with your spouse or roommate? Do you know if another member of your family/children may be accused of a crime? Do you have anything questionable on your computer?
Even the most honest of people can be caught in a precarious situation. Why put yourself at risk? If you decide to talk to the Officer, then step outside, close the door and make it clear that they do not have your consent to enter your castle without a warrant.
In a few situations – Officers may enter your castle without a warrant
The easiest way for an Officer to conduct a search is to obtain permission. Unfortunately, too many people give consent to Officers who wish to enter the home. Why wouldn’t we let an Officer search? They are in uniform, they represent the State, they just want to “come in” and ask a few questions?
Again, chances are that if an Officer is at your door, they are there to investigate something!
When consent is not given, the state must generally obtain a warrant. Because of the advancement of modern technology, the time to obtain a warrant is quick. Sometimes Officers can obtain a warrant in a matter of minutes, right from their patrol car.
Absent a warrant, officers may only enter without consent in a very few exigent circumstances. For instance, consider that Officers are in the middle of a chase and a suspect enters the home and slams the door shut. For obvious reasons, officers do not have to halt the chase and get on the phone to obtain a warrant.
Similarly, if there is a medical emergency in the home, Officers can enter a home without a warrant to assess and deal with the emergency. However, once the emergency has dissipated, Officers cannot remain in the home for investigative purposes.
What Officers see in “plain view” is fair game
If an Officer is standing in your castle talking to you, then any incriminating evidence that can be seen out in the open may be used against you. This demonstrates the importance of talking to Officers outside of the residence, with the door closed!
The right to privacy is one of the most sacred protection of the Constitution. If you find yourself in a situation where that right is violated, remain calm, do not answer questions by the Officer regarding the scene and call your attorney.
Warning: This information is not intended to constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with appropriate legal advisers in your own jurisdiction. It may not be current as laws are subject to change.