For many people, a police officer knocking at their front door is a nightmare scenario. Particularly if you do not have prior experience with law enforcement or the criminal justice system, you may be very frightened and unsure of what to do when a you look through the window and see a uniformed officer outside knocking. Whether or not you have committed a crime, you may wonder if you are required by law to open the door for the police when they come to your home. Below, our experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long explain when you are and are not required to answer a knock from the police and how a lawyer can help you if the police show up at your door in Philadelphia.
Must I Answer the Door in Philadelphia if a Police Officer is Knocking?
The answer to this question depends on whether or not the officer who is knocking has a warrant for your arrest or to search your home.
If the Police Have a Valid Warrant
If the officer has a valid warrant for your arrest, you are required by law to surrender. In addition, if the officer has a search warrant allowing them to search your home, then you must let them enter and conduct the search. However, unless there are exigent circumstances, such as a case where the officers reasonably believe evidence is about to destroyed or their lives would be in danger if they announced their presence, they must knock and announce their presence and clearly explain why they are there and what type of warrant they have. Only if you fail to open the door after a reasonable time has elapsed may they make a forcible entry.
If the officers entered your home without making reasonable effort to give notice of their identity, authority, and purpose to you and any other occupants, they likely violated the knock and announce rule. If this is the case, an experienced Philadelphia lawyer for illegal search and seizures like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long can file a motion to exclude any evidence obtained as a result of the illegal search from being used against you in any criminal case. Furthermore, we can scrutinize the warrants and challenge them if they are invalid or if the officers exceeded their scope.
If the Police Do Not Have a Valid Warrant
If the police announce themselves but do not say whether or not they have a valid warrant, you are not required to answer their knock. You will have a few options about what steps to take next. You can ignore the knock, although this risks the chance of the officers storming in and claiming exigent circumstances. Perhaps the best advice is to calmly ask the officer through the doo why they are there if they have a warrant, and, if they say that they do not, then politely telling them you are not going to let them into your home. Even if the officer wants to ask you seemingly-innocuous questions like whether you have seen a local missing child who is thought to be a kidnapping victim, you should step outside if you choose to speak with them, as anything the officer sees in plain view once you allow them to enter is fair game to be used against you. Furthermore, even if you have nothing to hide and want to help the officer, you should always limit what you say to the police without a skilled criminal defense lawyer like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long present for the questioning.
If the officers enter your home even after you have clearly not consented to a search, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long right away. As with situations where officers violate the scope of the warrant or the knock and announce rule, we can file a motion to suppress any evidence obtained as a result of any warrantless search that ensued. If you do consent, however, we are unlikely to be able to get the evidence excluded, which is why it is vital to know your rights and to never let officers into your home without a warrant.
How Can a Philadelphia Defense Lawyer Help Me If a Knock from the Police Results in My Arrest?
If the officer has a valid arrest warrant, or something they see during a search that you either consented to or they had valid warrant for gives them probable cause to make an arrest, our attorneys will focus first on getting you out of jail. In Philadelphia, bail hearings must occur within 72 hours of your arrest and usually occur over videoconference from your cell rather than in the courtroom. A skilled Philadelphia bail hearing attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long can work to get you released on little to no bail.
After this, we can try to negotiate a deal with the prosecutor to get your charges downgraded or dismissed. For some first-time offenders, this could mean an accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) program, where your charges are dropped if you successfully complete the program. Other deals could involve the charges being downgraded to something less serious, such as replacing domestic abuse charges with disorderly conduct charges, or the prosecutor agreeing to recommend a lenient sentence to the judge. Of course, if you do not wish to take a deal, our skilled trial attorneys at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long are always ready and able to fight for a not guilty verdict in the courtroom.
If You Believe the Police Have Violated Your Rights by Entering Your Home, Call Our Skilled Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
If the police knock on your door, the best first thing to do is to politely ask through the door what they want and if they have a warrant. If they do not, you are not required to speak with them. If they have a warrant, you will be required to comply, but a skilled Philadelphia criminal defense attorney like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long can challenge any search that was conducted in an illegal manner. If you are arrested, we can work to get you out of jail and to get your charges dismissed or otherwise dealt with as quickly as possible. For a free consultation, call us today at (215) 302-0171.