Let’s say you’re sitting at home one evening when suddenly there’s a knock at your door and you were not expecting visitors. When you glance through a nearby window to see who it is, you notice several uniformed Arkansas police officers. You speak to them through a screen in the window, and they ask if you would allow them to come inside to talk to you about something. Do you have to let them in?
What if you do let them inside your home and they request to have a look around, emphasizing that it would only take a few minutes and then they’ll be on their way. It’s understandable that you’d feel nervous and stressed in such circumstances. However, since situations like this often lead to arrest for suspicion of drug crimes, it is critical that you know your rights and how to protect them.
Warranted versus warrantless searches
Police officers typically need to obtain a valid warrant before searching your private property, vehicle or person. However, just because investigators searched something you own without showing you a warrant does not necessarily mean they violated your Fourth Amendment rights. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. Some situations are complex and whether or not a search is lawful depends on various factors.
Was something in plain sight?
If a cop pulls you over in a traffic stop and asks you to get out of your car, he or she likely suspects you of drunk or otherwise impaired driving. If the officer sees an open container of alcohol in your car, it may, in fact, validate a warrantless search. The court would likely consider a warrantless search lawful any time an officer claims to have seen something in plain sight that suggested you may have committed a crime.
You don’t have to let them in
As for police showing up unannounced on your doorstep, you do not have to let them inside your home if they do not have a valid search warrant. You can step outside and close the door behind you, informing them that you do not consent to a search of your home.
Protecting your rights
If police arrest you and prosecutors file drug crime charges against you, you can challenge the case if you believe they violated your personal rights. It’s always best to speak to someone who is well versed in Arkansas criminal defense laws in order to determine the best strategy for building as strong a defense as possible.