What to Do When the Police Are At Your Door
Posted on Aug 09th 2017
It is important to remember that if the police show up at your doorstep, there are laws set in place to protect you. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of what they can and cannot do in such a situation. Oftentimes, you might not be the target of an investigation; the officers may simply be questioning various people in order to get possible information pertaining to a crime. Even if you are not a suspect, you should always be alert and know how to exercise your rights. Adam Stout, a criminal defense attorney at Stout Defense, P.A. in Gainesville, FL, outlines what to do if you find the police at your door.
Your Rights When The Police Come Knocking
It is normal for a person to feel nervous or intimidated if the police show up at their house for questioning. However, you should always remain calm, assess the situation to determine the reason for the visit, and take the necessary steps to protect yourself.
No Entry or Search Without a Warrant
In the state of Florida, you have the right to deny an officer entry into your home if they don’t possess a warrant to search the premises. Securing yourself and your home from unreasonable searches and seizures is your Fourth Amendment constitutional right. When officers knock on your door without a warrant, they may ask if they can walk inside to search your home or attempt to do it without asking. While you could allow the officers to enter your home if you feel you have nothing to hide, that could prove to be a bad idea. Allowing the police to search your home without a warrant can put you at risk if they were to find something that could incriminate you. A warrant also protects you and your home from any unreasonable actions from the officers through judicial oversight. An officer is also not allowed to trespass and peer into your home through windows surrounding your home. In Powell and Wilbourn v. Florida, the court decided that an officer cannot intrude into a constitutionally protected area, and acts like peering through windows around your home is overstepping their boundaries.
You Can Choose to Speak Outside
If you feel comfortable speaking with the police but do not want to let them inside of your home, you can choose to speak to them outside. Stepping outside of your home to speak with the officers helps to protect your privacy and is within your rights. When choosing to speak with police officers outside of your house, keep in mind that the Plain View Doctrine is in effect. The Plain View Doctrine affords officers a basis to search your property based on what they’ve seen in their plain view. If they see something illegal, they have the right to search you and confiscate the item as evidence. Because of this doctrine, it is important to close the door behind you when stepping outside to talk.
You Have the Right to Remain Silent
While it is important to be polite to officers, you do not need to answer any questions if you don’t feel comfortable. However, you do need to identify yourself to the police. By speaking with a police officer, especially if you might be under suspicion, can put yourself at risk. Instead, it is better to exercise your Fifth Amendment right and say nothing until you can speak to your attorney. A criminal lawyer has the necessary experience and knowledge to assess the situation and advise you on how to respond to certain questions to avoid incriminating yourself.
What To Do if the Police Have a Warrant
If the police have a warrant to enter your home and search it, then you should ask to review the document. Make sure that all factual information, including the address, is correct. If something is incorrect, inform the officers of the error. The warrant should dictate specific areas of your residence where the officers may search. Take note of these areas and pay attention that the officers stay within the warrant’s limits. Immediately after the search, contact your defense attorneys. If evidence of a crime is found and you are arrested, exercise your right to remain silent until you can speak with your attorney.
Gainesville Criminal Defense Attorney
A criminal lawyer can help ensure that your rights weren’t infringed upon during questioning or during a search of your home. Your attorney will also help you build a defense in the case that evidence related to a crime was in fact seized from your property. Contact Stout Defense, P.A., today for a criminal defense lawyer Gainesville, FL, residents can trust.