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When can law enforcement search your property?

Your home should be a safe space where you are entitled to privacy. However, there are occasions when your right to privacy may be in conflict with the intentions of law enforcement.

You’ve received a knock at the door, and to your surprise, it is the police. They say that they would like to come in and take a look around. Do you have to allow this or can you refuse?

The presence of a search warrant

For the most part, police officers are only entitled to enter your home if they have a valid search warrant. The warrant must be dated appropriately and contain the reasons for the search and what may be seized. It should also be signed off on by the relevant court. A warrant that has expired or has not been approved by a judge is not valid. There are, however, some exceptions to this.

Your consent

You may feel like you have nothing to hide, so you ask the officers to come in and take a look around. Initially, they might have given you the impression that they were just hoping to have a friendly chart. However, this friendly chat soon turns into your detainment as well as the seizure of items from the house.

If the officers don’t have a warrant, then it is generally not in your best interests to allow them into your home. You are perfectly entitled to speak to them through a closed door.

Probable cause

In some cases, probable cause may be enough to justify a search of your home. Essentially, probable cause amounts to more than a mere hunch that criminal activity has taken place. For example, if a police officer hears gunshots coming from inside the building then they are probably entitled to force entry.

When facing accusations of any sort, it’s important to look after your own interests. Having legal guidance on your side will help you to assert your rights.