Under what conditions can a police officer let themself into your home?

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Under what conditions can a police officer let themself into your home?

A police officer went into my spouses house without knocking or announcing outside that he was there. He just opened the door and stepped in and started saying hello, hello. The motorcycle belonged to a friend who had arrived at the house earlier. My spouse came out to the living room the police officer asked for the guy in the motorcycle and his friend came out. The officer was already in the house. He then asked if it smelled like marijuana and my spouse then asked why he opened the door and went in without permission. He had possession of marijuana and paraphernalia. This is due to a motorcycle?

Asked on July 18, 2011 under Criminal Law, Arizona

Answers:

L.P., Member, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Generally speaking, under the Fourth Amendment, private citizens are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.  Additionally, under the "exclusionary rule" evidence obtained during an illegal search and seizure cannot be admissible in a court of law.  Police need a warrant to search your reside, and in order to obtain a warrant police need "probable cause" that they have a belief there is contraband in the areas listed in the search warrant or that criminal activity is taking place at the residence. 

However, there are exceptions to the warrant requirement.  In this case, the exception may be "exigent circumstances", and this includes the cases of "hot pursuit."  If for some reason the police were in hot pursuit of the owner of the motorcyle and believed the person to be in your spouse's house, then the police may have an exception to the warrant rule.  Further, the police only need to knock and announce.  Although you stated that your spouse did not hear them, unfortunately it may be difficult to prove.

Once the police are in the residence, then any contraband in plain view or any suspicious activity can give them probable cause for more of a search, this would include smelling marijuana.  However, if you are successful in proving that the police did not have an exception to the warrant rule, then anything contraband found within in the residence would be inadmissible, as it would be considered "fruit of the poisonous tree."  This means that anything evidence found after police conducted an illegal search is deemed inadmissible. 

I hope this provides some guidance.


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