A couple of police officers knocking at your door is likely to frighten you. You may wonder if they suspect you of a crime and have come to search your home or arrest you. If the police do come to your residence, they cannot simply barge into your home. They must have a warrant.
A warrant helps prevent law enforcement from violating your civil rights. If you want to minimize your risk of an unnecessary arrest, the ACLU offers some tips for interacting with the police at your home.
Do not let the police in
Inviting the police into your home allows them to look around and seize items they may deem to be evidence of a crime. The presence of such evidence may lead to your arrest. Instead, speak with the officers through the door and ask them for identification. You may find that they are asking for information about a case that does not implicate you. If you choose to do so, you may talk with the police outside of your home.
Ask to see the warrant
If the police do claim to have a warrant, ask to see it. You do not have to open your door to see the warrant. The police could hold it up so you can view it through a peephole or through a crack in your door. Another option is to ask for the officers to slip the warrant under the door.
What to look for on the warrant
Once you see the warrant, you can check it for information that it should have. A valid warrant should have the signature of a judicial officer. If the police present a search warrant, it should have your address on it. Search warrants also list areas for the police to search and items that the police are looking for. If the warrant is an arrest warrant for you, it will have your name on it.
Remaining silent during a search
If the police arrest you, they should inform you of your right to remain silent. However, you may also remain silent if the police have a search warrant. The officers will note if you say anything incriminating. After they have conducted their search, you should write down your recollections of their search, including where they have gone and what they took from you.
While you might not avoid a home search or an arrest, you may still protect yourself from a possible civil rights violation by verifying that the police can lawfully enter your home. Also, if you note problems on the warrant, you may have a strong defense that the search and/or arrest was illegal.