With Corona Virus (Covid-19) restrictions increasing just a week before Thanksgiving and the Governor of New York dictating how many people may attend a Thanksgiving Dinner at your house it is worth reviewing what rights you have if police unexpectedly show up at your door. This situation could arise for a variety of reasons including a crime committed nearby having nothing to do with you and the police just wanting to canvass the area for witnesses and/or cameras or a noise complaint or some other complaint called in by your neighbors. Often police may accompany a Child Protective Services (CPS) worker responding to a child abuse or neglect report or the police may sometimes knock and ask questions about a missing child, or adult. In any case, it is important to understand your rights.
Firstly, Courts recognize the right of the police officers to approach your door and knock or ring the door bell. Secondly, it is important to recognize that police officers are people, just like anyone else. There job is difficult and important and they should be treated with courtesy and respect at all times. It is also essential that you not give a police officer or anyone else that comes to your door any reason to fear for their safety by making any sudden movements or answering the door with a visible weapon.
There is absolutely no requirement that you answer the door if the police knock. Just as if a police officer were to approach you on the street you have no obligation to speak to the officer and no obligation to answer the door. The police officer may not enter your home except with your consent, with a search warrant, arrest warrant or in some very narrow exceptions to the warrant requirement. Rarely, will police officers have a warrant and then casually knock on the door. If they have a warrant they will either break down the door without knocking or announce that they are the police and that they have a warrant and that they will breakdown the door if you don’t open the door immediately.
If you do decide to answer the door, it is essential that you ascertain that in fact the people at your door are the real police either because of a uniform and badge, a marked car or other factors. It is not unreasonable to ask for an identification card. If you suspect that the people at the door are not the police but rather impostors, call 911 immediately and let them know what is going on.
If you decide to answer the door, you may speak to the police through the door and find out why they are there. If your door is equipped with a chain, you may also, speak to them with the door slightly open and the chain on. Again, you are not required to open the door and you are not required to let them in unless they have a warrant or court order. You do not have to answer any questions. In New York and most states you may video or otherwise record your encounter with the police in case there are nay questions later about what was said.
You do not have to let the police in to see how many people are in the house or apartment and you do not need to answer any questions about how many people are there. You do not need to show identification to the police if they just came to your door.
Our team of experienced criminal lawyers will be working throughout Thanksgiving and all of the holidays to answer questions and respond in the case of an emergency.