How Your NYC Home Protects You From Law Enforcement

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How Your NYC Home Protects You From Law Enforcement


Did you know that your own home offers some protection from law enforcement? Many of the rights that make your home something of a “safe space” are enshrined in the Constitution.

As with most constitutional rights, you must exercise them correctly to benefit from them. In addition, doing so does not necessarily prevent law enforcement from violating your rights. It will set up a situation where the police and prosecutors must defend their behavior later. 

Here are a few scenarios you should know about and some pointers for understanding and exercising your rights in each situation. 

When Police Are At the Door 

Did you know? If the cops don’t have a warrant, you do not have to answer the door. Police must announce whether they have a warrant when they knock.

There are exceptions. No-knock warrants are currently legal in New York. Some emergency situations allow police to enter a home without a warrant.

Regardless, you should only voluntarily allow police officers into your home if they can show you a warrant. They have a lot of leeway once they enter your home and a lot of opportunities to spot probable cause for a return visit or even to plant evidence that can get you arrested.

If they do have a warrant, you must let them in. Refusing to answer the door or pretending that you’re not home won’t keep them from coming in and can cause problems later. Your best bet is to get your lawyer on the phone and let them search or submit to the arrest if they have an arrest warrant. 

When Police Put Their Foot in the Door 

Police officers often place their foot between the threshold and the door to prevent a person from closing the door once they’ve opened it. Once they do this, you don’t want to try to close the door on their foot. Such a situation can create an altercation. The officer might arrest you for assault. 

If you’ve made the mistake of opening your door to an officer who does not have a warrant and the officer blocks your ability to close the door, step back, or further into your house, reiterate that you do not consent to a search unless the officer can show you a warrant, and note that you are invoking your right to remain silent and are calling your attorney. 

Do not give the police any excuse to escalate the situation, and clarify your understanding of your rights. 

When Police Have Been Chasing You 

The 2020 Supreme Court case Lange v. California clarified when police may pursue you into your home. We’re talking about a situation where they don’t have a warrant but have been chasing you through the city for some reason. 

The Courts ruled that under the Fourth Amendment, the pursuit of a fleeing misdemeanor suspect does not always justify a warrantless entry into a home.  They ruled “the Court’s Fourth Amendment precedents support a case-by-case assessment of the exigencies arising from a particular suspect’s flight.” This means…they can pursue you into your home, but they might have to defend the decision later. 

The 1976 case United States v. Santana had already established that being in hot pursuit of a felony suspect does create an exigency that justifies warrantless entry into a home. 

If you make it to your home and the police, don’t follow you in, use the time wisely. Get on the phone with an attorney because you can be sure the police will be pursuing a warrant so they can come back and retrieve you. 

Call Your Lawyer 

If you’ve been charged with a crime, you need to partner with an experienced private criminal lawyer who ruthlessly pursues every opportunity to help you defend your rights.

Contact us to schedule a case review today. 

See also:

When May Law Enforcement Conduct a Search Without a Warrant in New York?

Can the Police Force You to Unlock Your Phone in NYC? 

Can NYPD Enter Your Home Without a Warrant? 

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