Let's say you're sitting at home one evening, enjoying a movie or football game on TV. Your family is throughout the house, carrying out various activities typical to an average household in America. Overall, you're feeling pretty well satisfied with life, and safe and secure within your own home. That is, until a loud rapping at the door causes you to startle. Perhaps you approach your entry way and look through a nearby window to see who's outside.
That's when you notice the people at your door appear to be several uniformed police officers. You have a feeling your quiet evening at home is about to drastically change. The first question that pops into your mind is: Do I have to answer the door?
These factors are part of the answer
Police officers may approach you and ask you questions for any number of reasons. Some may even request entry into your home. It's best if you are well-prepared for such situations by knowing your rights ahead of time and where to turn for help if a problem arises. The following list includes information regarding your constitutional rights and how they apply to situations where police wish to enter your home or otherwise search your personal property:
- You can deny entry: Unless a law enforcement officer produces a valid search warrant to enter your house, you may deny a request to do so. Your right to deny entry is a protection under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits unlawful searches and seizures.
- You do not have to speak: Although it's best to answer basic questions, such as those involving your name, address or vehicle identification, anything beyond that, the officers may later use against you in court if they happen to file charges for some reason. By invoking your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, you have protection from self-incrimination.
- You may challenge evidence: If you believe police entered your home unlawfully or procured evidence by violating your personal rights in some way, you can challenge said evidence as inadmissible in court.
- You have a right to legal representation: Whether police are standing on your front stoop or placing you in the back of a squad car, you have the right to request immediate legal assistance and do not have to speak (provided you invoke your Fifth Amendment right not to) until such representation is present.
A simple knock on your front door can change your life forever if police believe you have committed a crime. While it's typically in your best interests to be polite and cooperate as best you can, you do not have to do or say anything that may later work against you in court.
Most people in Ohio ask experienced defense attorneys to act on their behalves when they become subjects in official police investigations. This is often the best way to up your chances of securing a positive outcome.