Many people don’t realize that they don’t have to answer the door for the police unless they have a warrant for the arrest of someone in the home, unless they have a search warrant, or unless they are responding to a call of distress and have reason to believe someone is being harmed inside of the home. In such cases, the police are sure to express this before forcing their way in, so you’ll know if it is actually better to open the door, rather than risk property damage and further charges. It is important for you to be aware that you have more rights within your home than you do outside of your home, and you can protect those rights by not answering the door. If you do choose to answer the door, you are taking a risk. The police can then easily say that you have given them some cause to enter the home.
Your Rights in Your Home According to the Constitutions of the US and SC
Your rights within your home are protected by the United States Constitution and also the South Carolina Constitution and South Carolina Code of Laws. Specifically, the rules within these documents state that the police cannot legally force their way into your home without a warrant or other just cause (such as reports of distress, violence, abuse). Without any of these factors, you are not required to answer your door to the police.
The trouble is that you are likely fairly well conditioned to listen to and obey the police. When they turn on their lights and sirens to pull you over on the highway, you have to pull over. When they ask you to get out of your vehicle, you’re supposed to do so. If they try to stop you to talk to you as you walk down the street, you stop and talk to them. When they come to your door and tell you to open it, you are likely very tempted to do it. You are likely to feel like you don’t have a choice, like you’ll make things worse if you don’t open it. You might even be afraid that they will force their way in if you don’t open the door.
You need to be aware, in these situations, that without the factors mentioned above, the police have no right to forcibly enter your home, and you don’t have to answer the door. If you do open the door, even just a crack, then the police will have ample opportunity to push their way in or say that they had reason to believe that you were engaged in criminal behavior. They could say that they entered the home because you allowed them to or because they could see evidence of criminal activity in the room behind you.
The police are also likely to ask you questions if you answer your door, and what seems like an innocent answer to you could be perceived or used as evidence of criminal activity for the officer. For instance, they may ask something along the lines of, “Where were you at 3pm, yesterday?” You might innocently answer, “At my friend’s house.” Yet, if this particular friend or this particular location was associated with a crime at that particular time, then you might have just indicated that you were involved in the crime or know something about it.
Will the Police Leave You Alone if You Don’t Answer the Door?
This is a tricky question. Chances are that if you don’t answer your door to the police, and they have reason to believe that you are home, they are not just going to shrug their shoulders and leave your property. If they have a legal cause to force their way in, they will tell you so. They may say, “We have a warrant to search the home,” or “We have a warrant for your arrest.” They might even say something like, “We received a report of domestic violence.” In any of these cases, you might as well open the door, because they’re going to come in, either way. Opening the door will just save you some expensive and unnecessary property damage.
At this point, if you are arrested, you should invoke your right to remain silent and get in touch with the David Aylor Law Offices to discuss your situation with an experienced South Carolina criminal defense attorney. If you are not arrested, then you should simply avoid saying anything that might incriminate you or lead to an arrest. If it is a case of domestic violence, or another similar circumstance involving violence or a heated dispute, you should cooperate with the police in diffusing the situation, rather than making it worse with further aggressive behavior. You or another party may be asked to leave the property, or the aggressor may end up arrested.
When none of these situations are applicable, then you do not have to answer your door, but that still doesn’t mean that the police will just go away. They may be very persistent, continue knocking and ringing the bell, and saying things like, “We know you’re in there; answer the door.” You are within your rights to completely ignore them or tell them that you do not intend to answer your door and you want them to leave the property.
They still may not leave right away, but because they have no right to forcibly enter the home, they will eventually go away. Depending on the situation, they may come back with a warrant, or they may seek you out when you are not in the sanctuary of your own home. If you think you are being investigated for a crime or if you have committed a crime, then this is a good time to seek out the legal advice of a skilled South Carolina criminal defense attorney from the David Aylor Law Offices. It is better to be prepared with an attorney, with advice and information about your rights, and with an understanding of what to expect, than to wait until it catches up with you.