When does a law enforcement officer have permission to enter your home?

August 11, 2010

By: David Jaffe

Is Your Home Your Castle?

In ancient times, a man's "castle" was considered sacrosanct.

Fortunately, of course, in more enlightened times, the same is true of a woman's home.

In fact, one of the main reasons for the Fourth Amendment to our United States Constitution, and Article 1 Section 7 of the Connecticut Constitution, is the fact that in colonial times the British government used so-called tax warrants to enter people's homes under the guise of tax enforcement, when in fact, they were searching for evidence of what they considered to be treason or disobedience on the part of the individual colonial families.

Consequently, our forefathers made sure that the integrity and sanctity of the family home is one of the fundamental concepts contained within the U.S. constitutional law.

Pursuant to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, in order for a search and seizure to occur, there either must be (a) a warrant supported by probable cause for the search and seizure and also stating with particularity what items the government is looking for, or, (b) absent a warrant, there are very narrow grounds which justify entering a person's or family's home to search it and to potentially seize personal property within it.

Such grounds for a warrantless search include when "exigent circumstances" exist, such as a reasonable belief that evidence is about to be destroyed or a crime is being committed within the home or when the police are in hot pursuit of a criminal.

Thus, if a law enforcement official knocks on your door, you have no obligation to consent to their entering your home unless one of the above circumstances exists.

If you do not want them in your home, you should politely but firmly tell them that if they want to come in they need to get a warrant.

Once inside your home, based upon your consent to their entering, without a warrant, it is your right to tell them at any time that you do not want them there anymore and that they must leave immediately.

When a warrant has been issued, after an application to a judge who then signs the warrant, it is your right to read the warrant and make sure that the police stick strictly to the terms of the warrant, including where they are allowed to search, based upon its terms, and what specifically they are allowed to look for and seize.

Certainly, at any time when a police officer is at your home or enters it, you have the right to call your attorney for advice.

If you are concerned about what is happening, this is a good idea.

In conclusion, your home is considered sacrosanct and you are considered to be the master of your domain under the United States and Connecticut Constitutions. Searches and seizures of a home, where family members, often children, reside potentially violate the most basic right to privacy that there is, namely, the privacy of the family home, based upon a long history of our country's laws and traditions.