Can the police come and arrest me in my home?
UPDATED: February 6, 2020
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There are circumstances when the police could enter someone’s home and arrest the occupant of the home. However, there are constitutional safeguards put in place under the Fourth Amendment to protect individuals from unreasonable search and seizure and unlawful arrest. Searches and seizures of a person or their property conducted by government agents must be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.
First it is important to understand the fundamentals of what constitutes a seizure. A seizure occurs when a government agent has created a circumstance in which a reasonable individual would not feel free to terminate or leave the encounter with the agent.
An arrest occurs when the police take a person into custody against their will for the purposes of interrogation or criminal prosecution. In order for an arrest to be lawful, it must adhere to the probable cause requirement. Probable cause is sufficient knowledge substantiated by trustworthy facts to support the theory that the suspect has committed or is committing a crime.
Generally, law enforcement officials do not need a warrant to arrest someone. For example, arrests that occur in public locations do not require a warrant. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Generally, law enforcement officials in a non-emergency situation must have a proper warrant to effectively arrest a person in their home.
Additionally, law enforcement officials are required to knock and announce their identity and purpose before attempting to enter someone’s home with forcible entry. If an official violated this requirement, and later arrested someone in the home, the arrest may be found to be unlawful. However, there are certain cases, usually dealing with drugs, where police officers carrying warrants do not have to adhere to the knock and announce rule.
Occupants of the home or premises may be detained by the police during a lawful search of the premises. For instance, if the police have a valid warrant to search someone’s home for contraband (paraphernalia used to smoke marijuana), then they may detain the occupants of the home during the search for the contraband. Further utilizing this example, if the police were to retrieve large amounts of marijuana, packaged in large blocks, rather than small bags, the police may arrest the homeowner for possession with intent to sell, rather than possession for personal use. The police officer will take into account all of the surroundings of the circumstances, see how many individuals live in the home, question all of the individuals, and then draw their conclusions as to who to arrest for the paraphernalia.
There are six exceptions to law enforcement officials needing a proper warrant before performing a search and seizure: (1) the search was conducted incident to a lawful arrest, (2) search of an automobile, (3) search conducted in plain view of the official, (4) search conducted with the defendant’s consent to search their person or their property, (5) search conducted during a stop and frisk, and (6) search taking place during hot pursuit of a suspect. If none of these exceptions apply, a police officer must obtain a valid search and/or arrest warrant before entering your home.
If you believe that you are the victim of an unlawful arrest, be sure to contact a criminal defense attorney in your area.