A police car pulls up in your driveway and an officer knocks on the door. You answer the door, but you leave the screen door closed so that you can talk without letting them in.
However, that doesn’t seem to be enough. The officer asks if they can come into your home and talk to you while they take a look around. There’s one very important question to ask in a situation like this:
“Do you have a warrant?”
Make no mistake, when an officer asks if they can merely “look around,” they’re doing a search. You have rights in this situation.
Officers can conduct searches without a warrant in some cases, but warrants are the main way that they get permission to enter a home — unless a resident of that home gives them consent. You do not have to consent to the search, after all. If you don’t, they typically have to leave if they’re not already in possession of a warrant. This is why you want to ask to see it so that you understand the scope of their legal rights in this situation — and your own.
Generally, an officer doesn’t have to show you a warrant upfront. They can try to get your consent to the search first, which may have a broader scope. If they then claim they have a warrant, though, asking to see it confirms that they do. They have to be reasonable and fair, even when executing a warrant, so they’ll generally allow you to read it after you ask.
Was the search illegal?
Have you been victimized by an illegal search, perhaps for illegal drugs and other substances? If so, it is important to understand how that can impact your defense options.