A proper understanding of civil rights is an essential thing for any citizen. Knowing what to do in a specific situation can help you avoid trouble. For example, one of the most common queries from citizens includes what to do when the police knocking on door at night or even during the day.
What should you do if you find yourself in such a situation? Should you open the door? What are your rights when the police knock on the door at night? If the police have the search warrant, they are well within their rights to search your home, even by force. However, if they don’t have a warrant, you have the right not to open the door. Read our guide to fully understand your rights in these situations.
Common Reasons For Police Knocking on the Door at Night
The question arises, why are the police knocking your door at late in the night in the first place? If you are not involved in any criminal activity or connected to a lawsuit, why would they be at your home? Police usually don’t visit private properties that late unless there is an emergency. Here are some common reasons why you may see a police officer at your door steps late in the night.
- Police arrested your child, and you were not responsive on the phone.
- Your house or your neighbor’s house has caught fire, and staying inside can be seriously injurious to your health.
- A juvenile wanted by the police is in your home with your kids, and you are not aware of it.
- The alarm system in your house is activated for some reason, alerting the police, and they are here to ensure you are safe.
- Death of your close family member, which you are unaware of, and the police have to notify you immediately.
- Your close or immediate family member was caught in an accident, and you were unreachable on your phone.
- Police found your missing or stolen property and may notify you in person (if you are not reachable electronically)
- Police caught a thief stealing or breaking into your private property, but you were not aware of it.
Can Police Enter Your House without a Warrant?
As mentioned earlier, the police cannot enter your house without a warrant unless they have your permission or an exigent circumstance arises. Exigent circumstances give the police to enter your private property without your consent or warrant. Explaining exigent circumstances can be difficult, but here are some common situations when the police are legally allowed to enter your home without a search warrant.
- To prevent any physical harm to the law enforcing agent/police officer or others.
- To continue chasing a suspect or a criminal.
- To prevent a suspect from escaping.
- To prevent the destruction or mutilation of a piece of evidence related to a crime.
Things to do when you see the police knocking on the door at night
The best thing would be to call your criminal lawyer and then take it further. If you decide to open the door, here is what you should do.
- Call your lawyer.
- Get outside and make sure you close the door behind you so that police cannot see inside.
- Ask the police for a search warrant.
- Do not answer any questions unless your lawyer arrives because your responses can be used against you in a court of law.
- Without a search warrant, don’t let the officer conduct any search or enter your house. You can tell them you are ready to cooperate, but your lawyer has advised you not to say anything without their presence.
- Make sure your tone is polite when talking to the officers.
Most importantly, do not resist if the police officers come into your house without your consent. The best thing is to comply with their orders and fight this illegal activity in court. It can be difficult to say no to the police, especially if they imply they might arrest you if you do not allow them in. Remember that if they don’t have a warrant to search your home, they likely don’t have enough to arrest you either.
What to do if you feel a civil rights violation?
If you believe that the officers entered your home without your consent, mistreated you, or violated your rights, here is what you can do.
- Write down the things as they happened immediately or as soon as the police officers leave.
- If your neighbors are also aware of or witnessing the situation, get their responses in written form before everything fades away.
- You can also record their comments via a recording app or film them with a cell phone.
- Register your complaint with the law enforcement agencies in your area.
- Speak with a block captain, city council member, or a religious leader in your area to strengthen your complaint.
- Take your case to a lawyer. These violations are best fought in court.
How to keep the police off your property?
It is well within your rights to avoid unwanted encounters with the police. Here is what you can do.
- Build a fence and put up the “no trespassing” sign on it.
- Mark your property as “restricted” for the general public.
- Install blinds or curtains on your windows so that police officers cannot look into your home without your approval.
- Tell your neighbors or friends not to bring law enforcement agents into your home without your consent.
Summing it up
The police knocking on the door at night is not something to be really afraid of. They may be here to deliver an urgent message or notification or due to exigent circumstances. If the police have the warrant, do not resist at all. If they don’t have the warrant, call your lawyer immediately, don’t answer any questions, and don’t allow them to come in if you are not comfortable.