Can the police search your home without a warrant? Heck, do you even need to answer the door if the police knock on it? Can you just pretend to not be home or politely ask them to come back another day? What are your rights and what are you legally allowed to do (and not do) when the police come knocking? 

Let’s take a few minutes to answer the question, “Can the police search your home without a warrant?” and explore what you can do legally if the police knock on your door.

Knock, knock. Who’s there? The police!

The police are knocking on your door. What are your options? If police knock on your door and they don’t have a warrant, then you do not have to answer the door. You are well within your rights to ignore the person at your front door whether they hear you inside or not and whether they’re a police officer or not. 

However, even if they don’t have a warrant, there are instances where you might want to consider opening up the door anyways — like if there is something going on with a loved one that you need to be notified of. 

But if you’re worried, it’s still a good idea to ask the police officer through the door why they’re at your home. If you open up your door and they see or smell something suspicious, they might have enough probable cause to search your home without a warrant. 

Long story short, to answer the question, “Do you have to answer the door if the police knock?” — if they don’t have a warrant, no, you do not. But if they have a warrant, that’s a different story.

The police are knocking on your door with a warrant

So let’s say you ask the police officers (through the closed front door) why they’re at your house, and they claim to have a search warrant. What then? And what happens if you don’t consent to a search?

There are a few steps you should take. First and foremost, let’s revisit the knocking. Like we said earlier, it’s best to yell through the door, but that’s not your only option. Here’s what else you can try:

  • You could open the door. But again, if they don’t actually have a warrant, they might find something that could give them the right to search your home right then and there. If you decide to do this, only open the door a crack or walk completely outside and shut the door behind you.
  • Go around back and meet the officers in front. However, this might only make it easier for them to arrest you and then subsequently, search the area around you (aka, your home).
  • Stay where you are and call an attorney, especially if you know there’s a warrant out for your arrest. Here’s what to do if you have a warrant in Texas.  

Whatever you decide to do — whether you ignore the knock, yell through the door, or meet them out front — be careful not to be fooled by anything they say. Just because they yell at you to open up the front door, doesn’t mean you have to. Remain calm, contact your lawyer, and stay quiet. 

If the police claim to have a warrant, here are some steps you can take:

  • Ask them to slip the warrant underneath the door.
  • Review the warrant entirely before opening the door. This includes full names and addresses. We’ve all heard the horror stories of the SWAT team kicking down the wrong door and injuring or killing innocent victims inside the home.
  • If any of the information is incorrect, try to inform the officers of this before you open the door. If they do have the wrong person (let’s say, a previous tenant or someone with a similar name), then you want to avoid any potential harm that could come to you. And keep in mind, if the information is inaccurate, you do not have to open the door.
  • If the warrant is valid, open the door and let the police officers know that you do not consent to the search. Pay careful attention after you let the officers inside your home. Document where they go, what they look at, and what areas they enter. Don’t be combative and do not interfere with their search. During this process, you want to make sure that what they do and where they go falls in line with the search warrant. For example, they may not have the right to search your vehicle. Here’s how to answer the question, “When can police search my car?
  • Do not answer any questions you don’t feel comfortable answering. And remember, call your attorney as soon as possible (don’t wait until the police officers are gone to do this.)

The police officers want to search your home without a warrant

Although you can ignore the door and deny police officers entrance if they do not have a search warrant, there are some circumstances where a search might be permitted without a warrant.

  • You or another resident gives them permission to do so. Keep in mind, some police officers may try to trick you. But remember, you always have the right to refuse a search if there is no warrant. Don’t allow them to make you think they have the right to search when they don’t. (Speaking of tricky, here’s everything you need to know about unmarked police car laws in Texas.)
  • They see something suspicious. This is why you don’t want to open the door if the police are knocking. If they see something like stolen merchandise or smell weed, they will have the right to search your home.
  • There is an emergency. If a police officer believes you have just committed a crime and/or there is evidence that could be destroyed before a warrant can be processed, they may have the right to search your property.

Whatever the case may be, if officers search your home without a warrant, always make it clear that you do not consent to the search. And again, document everything and call your lawyer.

Call Thiessen Law Firm if the police are at your front door (with or without a warrant)

At Thiessen Law Firm in Houston, our team has decades of combined experience fighting for the rights of Texas citizens. If the police show up at your door, do not hesitate to contact our team. We are Houston’s go-to criminal defense team, and we are ready to help you in any way that we can. Schedule a free consultation online or call us today at 713-864-9000.

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Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.