It is often advised that you ask the police if they have a warrant when they come to your house and ask to come inside. They don’t have to have a warrant; they can also get your consent, which is why they’re asking. But you want to ask if they have a warrant so that you know if you have to let them in or if they are genuinely asking for your consent in the matter.
This may lead you to wonder why they would need a warrant in the first place. If the police are in a position of authority, why is it that they can’t simply tell homeowners to let them inside to look for evidence of illegal activity?
Protections under the 4th Amendment
The reason that police cannot do this is because it would violate your rights under the Fourth Amendment. American citizens are not supposed to be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures. Searching someone’s house without probable cause is considered unreasonable and is therefore prohibited.
The warrant shows that it is not an unreasonable search because there is probable cause in advance. The officers had to demonstrate this to the judge to get the warrant.
Officers can also look for emergency reasons to enter a home, such as being in hot pursuit of a suspect or having an honest belief that a crime is taking place in the home. But they must have some reason, and that is why they need a warrant if they do not get your consent and there is no emergency.
There are still cases where the police may violate your rights and carry out an illegal search. You may want to know what legal options you have and how this could impact your case.