Seeing a police officer waiting at the front door of your home can be very unsettling, to say the least. No matter their reason for being there, they often make people uneasy without meaning to. Their presence could scare or intimidate someone into doing almost anything they're asked, just to avoid further trouble. They might be talking to people about a neighborhood crime or warning you about an unsafe condition nearby.
Then again, they may be acting on a neighbor's request because you're having a party and are causing a noise disturbance, or they may be at your house for suspected criminal activity. The police officers knock, and ask to talk with you. What should you do?
- Stay calm and say hello, then ask if there's something you can help them with. Treat them with respect, the same way that you want-and expect-to be treated by them.
- If they want to talk and you don't want them to come in, head outside via another door to talk to them on the front steps, or have the conversation at the door while keeping the chain lock engaged.
- You also don't have to talk to them, especially if they're dropping by to investigate a crime that they may suspect you are involved with. You don't want to say anything other than the minimum until you consult with a lawyer or have a lawyer present.
- It's also acceptable to not even answer the door, as long as you're not the one who contacted them asking an officer to drop by. If they don't have a warrant, they will eventually leave.
- If they ask to enter your home, ask if they have a warrant. If they don't, you don't have to let them in.
- If you do let them inside without a warrant, be aware that this act could lead to problems. Once an officer is inside with your consent, anything illegal they notice-such as illegal drugs, or unregistered weapons-can be used as evidence against you and lead to an arrest. This is where people really can get into trouble without realizing what they're exposing themselves to.
- If they do have a warrant, you have no alternative but to let them in. Don't confront officers; follow directions and remain silent. You're not required to give a statement. If the search leads to an arrest, utilize your right to remain silent and ask to speak to an attorney.
Above all, know your rights, and discuss them with others who live with you so you're all on the same page when it comes to handling a police offer at the front door. Hopefully you'll never have to deal with this, but it's important to be prepared.