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Can the Police Search My Home Without My Consent?

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For everyone ever arrested and charged with a crime based on evidence discovered in a home raid, this question will ring true. But the answer is not as simple as a clear yes or no. It ultimately depends on a few very specific qualifying facts. At The Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A., we help accused individuals defend against their charges to seek justice and fair treatment every day. Here is what you should understand about the police and their right to search your home in Maryland.

The General Rule is Privacy 

Under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, people are entitled to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”  Therein lies the key to the discussion – what is unreasonable?  While the general rule is that people should be left alone and only have their property searched with their consent, there are obviously times the government must be permitted to intervene and search without consent.

The Constitution goes on to say in the same clause that probable cause is required for a warrant. Therefore, it would make sense that the only way police can enter your personal property to search your home is with your consent. However, the Supreme Court has extended a number of exceptions. Like just about everything in criminal law, the exceptions are often more comprehensive than the rule.

Exceptions Where Police Can Enter Your Home Without a Warrant or Consent 

When police ask to enter your property, you have an absolute right to decline. You can make them follow the proper protocol and obtain a search warrant. When you consent, the police do not need a warrant or even probable cause. Still, if any of the following exceptions apply, the police will be able to ignore you’re your refusal and search anyway.

Someone else you live with consents (must have some common authority over the property, such as a hotel manager, roommate, etc.).  It does not allow a landlord to consent on your behalf.

Exigent circumstances. If police have a reasonable suspicion to believe a crime is being committed or a threat to human life is imminent, then they can force entry to intervene. This is a high standard, and it generally applies to situations like:

  • Police hear someone screaming or a gunshot.
  • Police saw someone enter the property carrying drugs, and upon knocking they hear a toilet flushing.
  • They smell drugs
  • There is evidence that a building is on fire
  • They hear evidence of what sounds like a child being harmed

If the police suspect that human life is at risk or there is an immediate threat that key evidence is being actively destroyed, they may be able to enter without a warrant or consent. Again, however, these are rare and very high standards to meet. Therefore, if police ask to search your property, your best answer should almost always be a respectful, no.

Call The Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. to get help defending against criminal charges in Glen Burnie and Columbia today.

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