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Knock! Knock! The Police Are At Your Door! Read This Before You Open It

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What should you do if the police come to your door and ask to come inside and speak with you? Do you let them in? Do you try to find out what they want to know? Make the wrong choice, and you could end up facing charges yourself. Before you open the door, this is what you should know about handling the situation.

1.) The police can't force you to talk to them.

You have the right to remain silent under police questioning, even if you're under arrest. However, unless you're actually in police custody, the police don't have to remind you of this right. That's why it's important that you always keep it in mind for yourself whenever you interact with the police.

Everything you say to the police has the potential to be used against you. Since you have no idea why the police are at your door, you have no idea whether you're being looked at as a witness, a collaborator, or a suspect. Until you find out, you should exercise your right to remain silent.

2.) They probably can't force you to even open the door.

The police generally have no more rights at your doorstep than any private citizen. Unless they have a warrant, you generally can't be forced to even open the door to speak with them—and you probably shouldn't.

If you do open the door and let the police step in, you negate the need for a warrant. If you open the door and they see something "suspicious" inside while looking over your shoulder, you may give them enough for the only real exception to the rule that requires the police to have a warrant to enter your property: exigent circumstances.

The exigent circumstances rule allows the police to depart from the normal rules that prohibit unreasonable search and seizure. While exigent circumstances usually only include things like an emergency situation that threatens someone's life or hearing a cry for help, you never know what the police may be able to claim gave them probable cause to push past you and enter your home.

Instead of opening the door, ask the police officer if they have a warrant permitting them to enter. If they don't, ask them to slip a business card under the door and tell them that you decline to talk to them until you speak to your attorney.

3.) Asking why they are there puts you in a dangerous situation.

Unless you are willing to open the door, the police probably aren't going to shout out why they want to talk to you. In any case, you are probably better off allowing a criminal defense attorney to ask the question for you.

If you start asking questions, you will already have started down a path that can only lead to more questions by the police and pressure to answer. If you aren't careful, you may hand the officer evidence that could be used against you later. 

Worse, you may find yourself in a difficult position. For example, imagine that the police tell you that you aren't in trouble but they want to know if you've seen your brother because he's suspected of bank robbery. What do you do if you happen to know that he's sleeping off a hangover in your back room? If you suddenly refuse to say anything else and cite your right to remain silent, the police may realize that you're hiding something. In addition, now you know that you're hiding something—or rather, someone who is wanted by the police. That could land you in trouble as an accessory after the fact for hiding him from the law. If you lie and tell the police that you don't know where he's hiding, you could be later charged with the additional crime of obstruction of justice.

Dealing with the police is not always an entirely pleasant circumstance, but you don't have to do it alone. If the police come to you door, decline to open it and don't respond to any questions or statements except to let them know you decline to talk to them without your attorney's advice. Then contact an attorney, like those at LaCross & Murphy, PLLC, promptly to discuss the situation.