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Do I Have to Let Police Search My House?

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Do I Have to Let Police Search My House?

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What Is Important To Know About Law Enforcement Searching A Residence In Texas

It is possible for residents in Texas to be sitting at home watching television and enjoying a cool drink. There is an unexpected knock at their front door. When a person who owns or leases the private residence opens the door, law enforcement is standing there. They ask if they can come into the residence. A resident’s next decision is a very important one.

Refusing to let the police in could lead to as many consequences as letting them into the residence. It is important for all Texas residents to know their rights in this situation.


Right To Privacy

The Texas and the United States Constitutions recognize the need for citizens to have their privacy respected by the government. They are protected against unreasonable searches. This means any search conducted inside a person’s home must meet the standard of being reasonable. Should law enforcement obtain anything illegal in a person’s home during an unreasonable search, it will not be admissible during a trial.

Exigent Circumstances

It is possible for law enforcement to arrest an individual inside their home without a warrant. This can happen should someone in the home appear to be experiencing an emergency situation. This is a situation where law enforcement can legally enter a residence and make an arrest without a warrant. According to Texas Code Criminal Proc. 14.05, if there is no consent, there must be exigent circumstances.

This is a legal term that is defined as a situation where there is an immediate emergency occurring in the residence. It is this type of situation that enables police to enter the residence without a warrant because the act of getting one would take too long. It would not provide law enforcement sufficient time to address the situation.

No Warrant No Obligation

It’s important to know that in Texas, when law enforcement knocks on the door of a residence without a warrant, the resident has no obligation to open the door or speak with them. A resident can choose to open the door and speak with law enforcement. They are still under no obligation to permit law enforcement entry into their residence. Individuals need to understand when they start speaking with law enforcement is when they begin providing legal evidence that can be used against them.

Legal Response

It is recommended people determine who is at their door before opening it. Should a person determine it is law enforcement, they have a number of options available. If they have a concern that law enforcement may try to force an entry, a resident can greet them outside after exiting from another door of their residence. Should law enforcement come to someone’s residence without a warrant, they can simply not answer the door. If law enforcement does not have a warrant, they will eventually leave.

Personal Property

Most people don’t like the experience of people from law enforcement combing around in their belongings. This takes time. It is common for a residential search to last as long or 30 minutes or more. People who have had this experience know that law enforcement won’t be careful with any valuable items. They will not make any attempt to put things back in their place. This might only happen if a person willingly waives their 4th Amendment rights and permits a warrant-less search. If a person discovers that some of their personal property is missing or damaged after a search by law enforcement, they should consult an attorney. There are few legal options available to get compensation.

Benefit of Refusal

It is possible that a person refusing to permit law enforcement to search their residence without a warrant could experience a future benefit. If a person feels they have any type of evidence that could be used against them for any reason, then agreeing to a search could be considered legal suicide. Doing this could cause serious damage prior to a case making its way to court.

Should a resident attempt to prevent law enforcement from conducting a search, they may still conduct one. When this happens, it is then the responsibility of law enforcement to prove they did have probable cause to enter the residence. This will have to be done in court. This is a great help for an attorney trying to win their client’s case. This situation is only possible if the search is initially refused.

Reason For Visit

When people have law enforcement unexpectedly at their front door, they should very respectfully ask why they are there. It’s possible they could be trying to gather information on a crime that had recently occurred in the area. They may also be responding to a noise complaint.

These situations can be easily resolved by agreeing to lower the volume on music or calming the barking dog in the backyard. It’s also possible law enforcement is investigating alleged illegal activities at the residence. If this is the case, it’s important to tell law enforcement they can’t enter without a search warrant. Should this happen, the resident should immediately contact an attorney.

Rescue And Public Safety

It is legal for law enforcement officers to enter a residence without a warrant if the goal is to provide assistance. This could happen if they believe someone in the residence is injured. It could also be a situation where they need to protect an occupant from an imminent threat. The Fourth Amendment doesn’t require officers to enter a residence if they believe doing so could put them in serious danger or the lives of others in serious danger.

Plain View Doctrine

Should law enforcement view something in a residence they believe to be contraband, and it is in plain view, they have a legal right to enter a premises without permission. Their goal will be to seize the contraband. This has happened when law enforcement can see something through the window of a residence or when a resident opens the door.

Remain Calm

It is good for a person to know their rights, but with the wrong attitude, a bad situation can become much worse. Choices prior and during law enforcement requesting to search a residence will have a major impact on the legal outcome. If law enforcement engages in bad conduct, such things can be reported and dealt with later. Attorneys recommend their clients try to remain calm no matter what happens.

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