Can the police enter and search my property without my permission?

There was a shooting next door to my house last night. The came into my yard, apparently, searching for shell casings. I don’t know, they wouldn’t tell me anything. They were in my back yard and front yard, my yard is fenced in with a gate. They entered without my permission, in fact, the only reason I knew they were there, was because my dog woke me up barking at them. When I asked what was going on they just wanted my name, birth date and phone number. There was no explanation. My question is can the police come in my fenced in property and search it without my permission or without a search warrant? This really bothers me, I feel they overstepped their bounds, am I wrong?

Asked on July 28, 2010 under Criminal Law, Michigan


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

There are exceptions to the general requirement of obtaining a search warrant.  The situation you described would fall under exigent circumstances, an exception to obtaining a search warrant.  The police were searching for evidence of the crime (shooting next door).  If they had obtained a search warrant, the shell casings or other evidence may have been gone by the time they obtained the search warrant and returned.  They could also claim that their investigation led them to your yard and this was part of their on-scene fact finding.  They might also claim that for emergency or safety reasons, exigent circumstances would require them to immediately search the area for weapons that may have been discarded in your yard after the shooting next door, again without the time required to obtain a search warrant and return. 

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