It’s clear to you that the police can enter your home if they do have a warrant. They’re allowed to come in because the warrant has been issued by a judge, overruling your ability to keep them out. The police have to take some sort of evidence to the judge to get the warrant, establishing probable cause and the necessity of the search.
But what if they don’t have a warrant? There are still some ways that they are allowed to legally enter your house, and these are important to understand – not just so that you can allow them to enter when they have the right, but so that you know if they violate your rights and break the law.
With your consent
The first way that they can enter without a warrant is simply by getting consent from you or another homeowner. In fact, even a police officer who has a warrant may ask for your consent first. You are certainly allowed to give an officer consent to come into your home at any time, but you are never obligated to do so. People sometimes feel as if they don’t have a choice, but you need to remember that you do.
In an emergency
Another reason they can come into the house is if they believe it’s an emergency situation. One example is if they believe that evidence is being destroyed or that a crime is being actively committed. Another reason could be if they are following a suspect, such as engaging in hot pursuit of a runaway driver, and that person runs into a home. They can continue the pursuit without stopping to get a warrant first.
If they see items in plain view
Items left out in plain view may also be enough to trigger a search. For instance, maybe the officer knocked on the door to ask for consent to come inside. When you opened the door to talk to them, they saw what appeared to be illegal drugs on the table. Since these were left in the open, the officer may be able to seize them and use them as an excuse to enter your home.
If you do think the police have violated your rights during a search, be sure you know what legal options you have.