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What to Do if Police Show Up at Your Door

Whether you feel at ease or uncomfortable when law enforcement officers are near you, it’s important to know your rights. If officers ask you questions, your answers could be used against you in court. It’s always important to keep calm and address officers in a respectful manner.

So, what should you do if police show up at your door? Keep reading.

If you know your rights when police come knocking, you shouldn’t have to feel violated and nervous. Even before you answer the door, it’s a good habit to look through a window or peephole to see who’s at your door for safety reasons.

It’s wise to treat officers like you would treat any other guest to your home. Calmly and respectfully ask: “How can I help you?”

In some cases, the officers may just be at your door because of a public safety issue in your neighborhood. For example, perhaps a crime was committed nearby and the officer wants to know if you have any information on the suspect or if you can provide any leads. It’s also possible that officer is at your door on a noise complaint, so be sure to be respectful to your neighbors.

If the officer says you’re a suspect in a criminal investigation, you should remain silent. If they request to come inside, tell them they can’t without a search warrant. The United States Constitution’s Fourth Amendment requires police to get a signed search warrant from a judge to legally enter and search your home. If you give consent for them to search, however, officers can search and seize any illegal items that are in plain view for evidence, which can lead to your arrest. It’s a good idea to keep any private items that you wouldn’t want unexpected company to see out of sight. For more information on search and seizure, see our article on what you should do when police want search your property.

If police entered your home with a search warrant or if you consented to let them inside, you should immediately contact a lawyer before speaking to police again.

Below are some basics on dealing with police from the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization that works to protect U.S. Constitutional rights:

Your Rights

  • You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.

  • You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home.

  • If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.

  • You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.

  • Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.

Your Responsibilities

  • Stay calm and be polite.

  • Don’t interfere with or obstruct the police.

  • Don’t lie or give false documents.

  • Prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested.

  • Remember the details of the encounter.

  • File a written complaint or call your local ACLU if you feel your rights have been violated.

If you think your rights were violated by police, write everything down about the incident so you don’t forget any details. This can include witness names and phone numbers, and contact a lawyer as soon as possible.