People facing criminal charges need to plan a way to defend themselves. Challenging evidence is a popular strategy. If there are questions about a police officer’s actions before or while collecting the evidence, a defendant could ask the courts to exclude that evidence from their trial.
A violation of someone’s rights by law enforcement can potentially render the evidence against someone invalid. Police officers forcing their way into your home without your permission or a warrant could potentially mean that the evidence they gather against you won’t be useful in court.
However, there are circumstances in which police officers can enter a home without warrants or permission and still use the evidence that they gather.
When they suspect a crime in progress
Police officers can do things they usually cannot when they have probable cause to suspect a crime in progress. For example, they could force their way onto private property if they believe there is someone inside experiencing an assault.
Noises from inside your home, things the police see through the windows, shadows or even certain smells could give a police officer the probable cause they need to make forcing their way into your home a justifiable act.
When they suspect the destruction of evidence
It is a crime to intentionally destroy evidence, but that is exactly what some people do when they realize the police are nearby. The Supreme Court has affirmed that the police can justify forcing entry into a home when they hear noises like a toilet flushing that make them concerned about the potential destruction of evidence. Garbage disposals and paper shredders are also loud noises that police officers might associate with evidence destruction.
When they are in the middle of a hot pursuit
Police officers have the right to arrest someone when they have probable cause, but not everyone complies with police instructions. When police officers try to detain someone only to have that person fully, the officers made pursue. A hot pursuit could occur on foot or in vehicles. It may start on public property like the roads and end up taking place in people’s backyards.
Police officers trying to catch someone actively fleeing from them can enter a private residence without a warrant or the consent of the occupants. There are certain limits on their activity, however, and the seriousness of the offense impacts the options available to an officer.
Understanding when the police can justify forcing their way into your space can help you decide on an appropriate criminal defense strategy.