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When can the police enter your home without a warrant?

Most of the time when the police go into someone’s home to search, they do so under the authority of a warrant signed by a judge. However, sometimes police officers don’t have the opportunity to get a warrant before they decide to take action.

There are a number of scenarios in which the police could legally enter your home without a warrant, and it’s important to know those so you can help protect your rights.

When they have probable cause for the search

If officers witness something they believe is a strong indication of criminal activity, they can search without consent or a warrant. Smelling drugs or hearing what sounds like a violent altercation could be a reason to demand entry into a domicile.

Pursuing a criminal who has fled from another location can also be grounds for a search, although the Supreme Court has recently ruled that such pursuits and searches may not be appropriate if the offense is a non-violent misdemeanor.

When you give them permission to enter

Possibly the most common way that police officers get into someone’s home without a warrant is by asking for permission first. A surprising number of people will open their doors for the police. Once you do, it may be hard to get them to stop searching. They could also legally gain entry to your home if a roommate or family member gives them permission.

Knowing when police can and cannot enter your home can help you decide if challenging a search or evidence found by police might be a viable part of your defense strategy.

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