When can the police enter your Pennsylvania home?
Criminal, Individual | April 4, 2013
You may have recently heard a news story from a neighboring state where the police and child welfare workers showed up at the home of a family at 8:15 p.m. and demanded to be let in. One report said as many as 4 cops showed up at the door, in night uniforms and body armor. The cops demanded to be let in to investigate gun and ammunition storage in their house – this all happened after the father posted a picture of their son holding a gun in his hands, and after an anonymous tip was received that the child might have access to the gun and ammunition. The father was apparently at work and not at home at the time, thus leaving the mother home to deal with the situation on her own. In a bold move, the mother, with the help of her lawyer who was on speakerphone, refused access. Homeowners in Pennsylvania may be asking themselves, whether they own guns or not, what the law in Pennsylvania allows in such circumstances.
In Pennsylvania, when the police come to your door and demand to be let in,…
…you have every right to refuse them access to your home – no matter how many police officers show up at your door, no matter what they are wearing and no matter who they bring with them, and, and this is important – no matter what they say. Even if you are told that you are obstructing justice if you don’t let them in, or even if they make up some other such threats, you may deny them access. As a citizen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, this is your right under the laws and Constitution of Pennsylvania. The only authority under which a police officer can lawfully and legally enter your home, is if they obtain permission from a Court with proper jurisdiction saying they can do so. This is usually done with a warrant, which will be in writing, and is something you can and should ask the police to show you before you permit them access to your home.
That said, there are very limited circumstances that allow law enforcement to enter one’s premises, and that typically involves circumstances where the authorities are in hot pursuit of a person they believe just committed or will immediately commit a certain type of a crime. A corollary to this idea, of course, is the notion that while you may deny permission to permit access to your home, if a law enforcement officer forces access to your home, even over your objection, you are not permitted by law to obstruct such action – although you may later have certain legal rights, claims, and/or defense because of such unlawful entry. Of course, these circumstances are an entirely different discussion, which we may blog about later, but I think they merit at least a mention in this discussion.
If you have questions about your rights, or if you ever find yourself being confronted with this or a similar situation, please contact the Pennsylvania criminal defense attorneys at Menges & McLaughlin, P.C. immediately.