Do you have to let police take a ‘quick look around’?

Police officers can be intimidating regardless of whether you committed a crime or not. If police knock on your door and ask to come inside, you might feel as if you have no choice but to let them in.

Although Wisconsin police officers have a degree of authority over residents, you still have legal rights. Learning a few basics about the law can prepare you for the best way to respond to this situation.

The right to privacy

A common misconception is that you must allow the officer to search because you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide. Refusing an optional search does not mean you are automatically guilty.

Instead, it means that you want to exercise your right to privacy. Historically, lawmakers and legal professionals have debated the extent of this right. However, the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from government searches without strong justification, such as probable cause and emergency.

Warrants matter, but are not always necessary

You may have heard that police need a warrant before searching property, but this is false. There are a few cases in which police require no warrant.

Perhaps the most relevant exception to a warrant requirement in this situation is consent to search. If an officer politely asks to search your property and you agree, any uncovered evidence could be admissible in court. This is why residents may wish to respectfully decline until the officer obtains a warrant.

Fighting wrongful searches

It is not a good idea to use force against law enforcement, even if you believe the search is illegal. Other special circumstances may allow police to search your property without a warrant, but anyone who faces criminal charges can question the validity of a search later in court. Illegally-obtained evidence, including allegedly stolen property and drug contraband, may be thrown out of your case.