Last time, we began discussing just how distressing any sort of encounter with state or federal law enforcement officials can be for the average person. We also discussed how the fear engendered by these encounters can sometimes be so great that it leads people to mistakenly believe that they are somehow obligated to assist with investigatory efforts or, worse, that they are without rights.
To reiterate, every person has certain inalienable rights under the U.S. Constitution that apply regardless of whether they are stopped by federal agents, state troopers or local police officers.
While we discussed how these rights apply when you are stopped in your car in our last post, in today's post, we'll examine your rights if officers or agents arrive at your home.
If law enforcement comes to your front door
As alarming as it can be to hear a pounding on your front door followed by the announcement that it’s a law enforcement official, it's imperative to understand that you do not have to let them in if they don't have certain types of warrants.
As to the types of warrants that will require you to open the front door, these include:
- Arrest warrants: This permits law enforcement to enter the listed residence to search for a person that they believe is inside and whose name is listed on the warrant.
- Search warrants: This permits law enforcement to enter the listed residence to conduct a search. However, the search must be confined to the areas and for the items outlined in the warrant.
If officers or agents have a warrant, it's okay for you to ask them to slip it under the door or hold it up to the window so that you can verify its contents. Furthermore, it's also important to understand that just like traffic stops, you have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for declining to answer any questions put to you by law enforcement officials as they search.
Another key point to keep in mind is that if agents arrive at your front door with a warrant of removal/deportation -- otherwise known as an ICE warrant -- it does not give them permission to enter your home sans consent.
We'll conclude this extremely important conversation in our next post, examining your rights if you are placed under arrest.
Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional able to uncover any violations of your constitutional rights if you have been charged with a major state felony or federal offense.