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When can law enforcement legally enter your home?

Many people are under the impression that law enforcement can only enter their home with a properly executed search warrant. In reality, however, there are many situations in which law enforcement can enter your home without a warrant.

The most common means of entry into a residence is typically an invitation. The cops show up knocking on your door, needing to ask you a few questions. You, assuming the best about other people, decide to let them inside. Unfortunately, when that happens, they can generally look around and try to find a reason to continue searching your home for evidence.

Of course, even if you decline to let law enforcement into your home, they may seek to enter it anyway. There are many situations in which police can and will enter your home both without your permission and without a warrant. It is also possible for law enforcement to enter your home illegally, which could be used to help mount a defense against any criminal charges that result from the search of your home. Generally speaking, talking to an experienced Ohio criminal defense attorney as soon as law enforcement try to enter your home is in your best interest. An attorney can help protect your rights.

The 4th Amendment isn't as strong as it used to be

A few years ago, there were really only two situations where law enforcement could enter your home without an invitation or a warrant. The first was if there were sounds of distress, cries for help or other obvious indicators of a crime visible or audible to law enforcement. If no one answered the door but police heard someone crying inside, for example, they could force entry into the home under the assumption that someone inside was in danger or victim of a crime. They could also come inside if a criminal was seen entering the premises during a pursuit.

That changed in 2011, when the Supreme Court dealt the 4th Amendment a serious blow. The court found that law enforcement had the right to enter a home if they believed evidence was being destroyed. In this specific case, police were knocking on the wrong door after pursuing a suspected criminal. When they heard a toilet flushing, they assumed the suspect was disposing of drugs and forced entry into the home. The court decided that law enforcement did not overstep their authority and effectively reduced the protections of the 4th Amendment.

Thus, if law enforcement arrives at your home and hears a toilet flushing, a garbage disposal running or even the sound of a paper shredder, they can knock down your door without a warrant and charge you based on whatever they find at that time. Warrantless searches can infringe on your civil rights. If you've been subject to a warrantless search, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

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Edward R. La Rue
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Cleveland, OH 44113

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