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When New York police knock, must you let them in?

As you lie sleeping in your New York apartment or single family home, the last thing you might expect is to hear loud, aggressive pounding on your door. Such an unexpected, loud noise might cause your heart rate to race. In fact, even if it's not happening during the night, receiving an unexpected (and uninvited) visitor can definitely be alarming.

If you were to look out a window, through a peephole or through a partially opened door and recognize the person or people on your doorstep as New York police officers, your stress level might immediately go through the roof. The officers might want to enter your home, and the question is: Do you have to let them? In such situations, it's important to know your rights and know where to turn for help, if needed.

Search warrants are typically required

If most circumstances, police can't simply demand to come into your home, then start looking around or rummaging through your belongings. In most cases, police must show evidence of a valid search warrant to enter your home or conduct a search of your property, person or vehicle, unless you consent to the search. Even so, there are certain extenuating circumstances that would eliminate the need for a warrant.

Try to remain calm

In the past, many people have said that they gave into requests from police to enter their homes because officers were being loud, aggressive and intimidating. While such circumstances would understandably cause you to feel anxious or even, afraid, if you know your rights, you can make informed decisions as to whether you will allow an officer entry or deny the request.

You can step outside

To keep police from entering your home, you might consider stepping outside, then closing the door behind you. There are times when police might come to your home with questions about a neighbor or some other incident that has recently taken place in the area, perhaps, to ask you if  you know someone, have seen someone or something, etc. The better you understand your own legal obligations ahead of time, the more informed a decision you can make under such circumstances.

You receive protection from the Fourth Amendment

Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you have the right to be secure in your own home against unlawful searches or seizures. This amendment protects you from unreasonable intrusion from law enforcement officers or other U.S. government officials. When considering whether to answer questions or comply with requests that a police officer at your doorstep has made, keep in mind your rights. In fact, there is no rule that you must open your door at all when someone is knocking. If police do not have a warrant, they might simply leave after a while, but they could come back with a search warrant.

Areas around your home may receive protection as well

It's not only the interior of your home that is protected from unlawful intrusion under the Fourth Amendment. It may also applies to the structures on your property. Just as police cannot willfully enter your home without your consent (under most circumstances) they also can't go looking around your garage, shed or other buildings on your land.

If a legal problem arises

When police are questioning you, you have a right to invoke the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which allows you to remain silent without legal representation. While you are legally obligated to answer certain questions, such as those that request you to confirm your identity, you can request that legal representation be present under interrogation.

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