The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects people in the United States from unreasonable searches. The police can’t just go into a random person’s home or vehicle to look for a way to accuse them of a crime.
Typically, police officers either need enough evidence to convince a judge to issue them a warrant or permission to enter the property. However, police can sometimes force their way into a home with neither permission nor a warrant.
When they have probable cause
If a police officer smells, hears or sees something from outside of the property that gives them probable cause to think a crime has occurred inside, they can enter. Noises from your favorite movie or video game could sound like a crime in progress. Certain scents, ranging from animal smells or home repair odors to certain kinds of incense might make police officers suspect criminal activity.
When they believe someone wants to destroy evidence
If the police knock on a door and announce themselves, they will listen to what happens on the other side of the door. If they believe that the sounds indicate the intentional destruction of evidence, they could force their way into the property to preserve the evidence. The Supreme Court has upheld this practice, which means anything from running a garbage disposal or paper shredder to a toilet flushing could give the police a reason to come inside a home.
When they are in pursuit of a suspect
When the police tried to apprehend someone suspected of a crime, that individual may not comply. If someone attempts to flee from the scene of a crime, the police officers may pursue them. Although there are limits to the right to enter a property during a pursuit, chasing someone else might give the police a reason to come into your home without permission.
Knowing if the police violated your rights can help you decide the best way to defend yourself against upcoming criminal charges.