When Can Police Enter Onto or Into My Property

Published 05/27/16 by Admin

If you have ever found yourself confronted by the police, and they have entered onto your property or into your property (including your home, car, etc.) then this blog applies to you. If this has not yet happened to you, then this blog still applies because it will help you understand the circumstances in which a police officer can enter into or onto your property.

Everybody (or almost everybody) is familiar with the United States Constitution. In that historical document is a very important amendment which is applicable to this circumstance: The Fourth Amendment.

Under the Fourth Amendment: “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Basically, the Fourth Amendment protects an individual from the police illegally entering onto or into a person’s property and searching or seizing said property unless it is (1) reasonable and (2) they have a warrant. While this covers the majority of circumstances in which a person may be confronted by the police wanting to enter their property, there are exceptions to every rule, including this one.

The police can obtain a warrant if they have probable cause related to a crime, and if that warrant is signed by a neutral third party judge.

First and foremost, the police may enter onto or into an individual’s property if they are given permission by the appropriate individual. This is common sense, but none the less it is important to know. Police can be intimidating to some, and when a person gets nervous, they are more likely to give a police officer permission to enter onto or into their property. If an individual gives a police officer consent or permission to enter onto their property, into their property, or search their property, they have waived their fourth amendment rights. It is important to note that an individual is not required to give a police officer permission to enter or search that property.

A second exception, which was mentioned previously, is probable cause. If you have ever watched an episode of Law & Order or Cops then you’ve probably heard an attorney or police officer use those words. What is probable cause? Simply put, probable cause is when there is sufficient reason or evidence to believe that a person or piece of property is associated with a crime. If a police officer has probable cause to believe that a weapon used in a crime is hidden in an individual’s home, or that an individual who committed a crime is on the property, then that is typically grounds to obtain a warrant or in other circumstances to make an arrest or search an individual’s property without a warrant.

A third exception occurs when a police officer has probable cause and believes that there is not enough time to obtain a warrant before the property or evidence, believed to be related to a crime, is destroyed or removed. This is what is known as an “exigent circumstance”. In these circumstances, a police officer can enter into or onto property without a warrant.

A fourth exception, is the plain view doctrine. If a police officer believes that they have seen something in plain sight that is evidence related to a crime or is illegal contraband (drugs, certain weapons, etc.), then that police officer may enter onto or into an individual’s property to obtain that illegal item without a warrant. In order for this to happen though, that police officer must have been lawfully present in the given area when they observed or recognized the evidence/contraband.

All of the exceptions listed above are commonly used practices by police officers to enter into or onto an individual’s property without having to obtain a warrant. Every situation is different, and just like with any other area of the law, the rules governing when the police can enter into or onto your property is constantly changing. Although this blog has provided the main exceptions that allow the police to enter without a warrant, there is always the possibility of a new exception being created.

Knowing your rights and when a police officer can lawfully enter into or onto your property can help protect your privacy, but more importantly can keep you from incriminating yourself. Never be afraid to contact an attorney or a law firm to learn more about protecting yourself from the unlawful entry of a police officer onto your property or illegal searches and seizures.