College students often inadvertently gain the attention of police officers. Cops may be looking for drunk drivers, disorderly conduct or public intoxication, which are often associated with college students. However, at times, they look for evidence of more serious offenses such as possession of drugs with the intent to distribute (dealing drugs), property crimes, such as credit card fraud or shoplifting, and assault or other violent crimes.
During the investigation into these matters, police may come to your door and ask to come in to talk to you. It may not be in your best interests to simply let them in. Actually, you probably shouldn't just open your door and your home to police. Now the question becomes whether you can deny them entry.
You may not have to let them in
If officers have a valid search warrant, then you will have to let them into your home. However, things are quite different in the absence of a legally obtained warrant. There may be other reasons why police could enter your home without a warrant such as in emergencies like fires, the sounds of gunshots, etc., but the primary one is that you give consent for them to enter.
You may believe that you must open the door when police ring the bell, but that is not always the case. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court both protect your right to freedom from unlawful and unreasonable searches and seizures. This means that even if probable cause exists, officers can't just come into your home without a valid search warrant. You have the following options when police arrive without a search warrant:
- Unless you called them, you don't have to answer your door at all.
- You can speak to police through the door.
- You can exit your home, shut the door behind you and talk to them.
If officers are at your home to inquire about a crime they believe you committed, you may want to avoid speaking with officers as well. You may tell officers that you cannot let them in without a search warrant and have nothing more to say. When they leave, it would probably be in your best interests to contact an attorney to determine your rights and legal options for if or when officers obtain a warrant.