Can Police Enter Your Home Without a Warrant?

can police enter your home without a warrant

Imagine there is a knock on your door. When you open the door, you realize it is the police. The officer tells you they want to search your home; however, the officer does not offer to show you a warrant. Can police enter your house without a warrant? What should you do in that situation? A Chicago criminal defense attorney explains the police search laws as they pertain to a warrantless search of your home.

Your Fourth Amendment Constitutional Rights

Important rights are guaranteed to you within the first 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, collectively known as the Bill of Rights. Among those rights is the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, located in the Fourth Amendment, which reads as follows:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The Fourth Amendment effectively says that the police cannot conduct a search without first obtaining a warrant based on probable cause. The warrant requirement, however, has been diluted by the courts over the years. Nevertheless, the warrant requirement as it pertains to a search of your home remains fairly well intact. There are, however, several well-established exceptions to the warrant requirement.

When Can Police Enter Your Home Without a Warrant?

If you are faced with the police at your door, you need to know your rights. Can a cop come into your house without a warrant? If so, under what circumstances? There are four exceptions to the warrant requirement as it applies to a search of your home, including:

can police enter your house without a warrantConsent  

Simply put, if you consent to a search, the police do not need a warrant. Law enforcement officers will use a variety of tactics to get you to consent; however, you have an absolute right to refuse consent. Once you do consent, the police can enter and conduct a thorough search without the need to obtain a warrant first. However, it should be noted that you may revoke the right to consent at any time. 

Plain View 

If the police see evidence of a crime or contraband in “plain view”, it provides a way around the warrant requirement, meaning they may enter and conduct a search. For example, if you open the door and there is a baggie of cocaine on a table right inside the door, the officer can use the plain view exception to enter your home.

Incident to Arrest

If the police are making a valid arrest, they may also conduct a search of the area within the immediate control of the arrestee only. The rationale of this exception is that a search is necessary to ensure officer safety during and after the arrest.

Emergency or Hot Pursuit 

If there appears to be an emergency, the police may enter without a warrant. A classic example is if the police hear someone from inside the house calling for help. They may also forego obtaining a warrant if they are in “hot pursuit” and the suspect they are chasing runs into the house.

Contact a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you were arrested after the police conducted a warrantless search and seizure of your house, it is imperative that you immediately consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney about the facts and circumstances of your case. If the police conducted an illegal search, any evidence seized as a result of that search might be deemed inadmissible at trial. Contact Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC today by calling (312) 644-0444 or by filling out our online contact form.

This blog is available for informational purposes only and is not considered legal advice on any subject matter. The blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney, and readers are urged to consult their own legal counsel on specific legal questions.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : November 18, 2019