Nobody is ever really prepared to find the police on their doorstep – and there could be all kinds of reasons they’re there that don’t even pertain directly to you. They could be canvassing the neighborhood to look for witnesses to a crime, or just responding to a noise complaint from your neighbor.
On the other hand, they could be actively trying to get inside your door because they suspect you of some kind of criminal activity. Here’s what to keep in mind:
You do not have to open the door
Unless the police have a warrant, you don’t have to open your door – and doing so could invite trouble. Once the police can see inside your home, you automatically weaken your privacy protections. If the police see anything through the crack in your door that could be evidence of a crime – like a weapon or something that looks like drugs — you could be handing them what they need for an actual warrant.
You may want to find out why they are there
While the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives you the right to refuse the police entry to your home, you probably should, however, ascertain the purpose of their visit.
To do that, you can either speak with them through the door or step outside (ideally through a different exit, like a back door) to talk with them. If they are there for something like a noise complaint or parking issue, you can handle it quickly. If they’re there for something more serious, you can take a business card and go back inside until you decide how to handle the situation.
If the police have questions for you, it pays to be cautious. Legal guidance can give you the support you need to navigate a situation that might lead to criminal charges.