You can only advocate for your rights properly when you understand what rights you have. Too many people in Tennessee don’t understand their protections under federal and state laws. That lack of information leaves them vulnerable to underhanded tactics commonly used by law enforcement.

For example, did you know you don’t have to let the police into your home just because they turn up knocking at your door? Did you know you can ask the courts to throw out evidence police gathered illegally by violating your rights?

Understanding when you have to allow police into your home and when they violate your rights by coming inside can put you in a better legal situation if you find yourself facing criminal charges.

Police often depend on your sense of politeness

When law enforcement officers don’t have a strong case against a suspect, they may not be able to get a warrant to search their home. This can lead officers to try unofficial tactics to gain entry into your home. The easiest way for police to gather evidence against someone without a warrant is to put that person in a situation where they incriminate themselves.

Knocking on your door to ask you some questions informally can be a great way to find a reason to keep asking questions or even to bring more officers over to search your home. When an officer arrives at your home and asks to talk to you, they want you to invite them inside. Anything they smell, hear or see that makes them think illegal activity may have happened in your home gives them grounds to search the property, even if you ask them to leave after they come inside.

Keeping the officers out of your home, potentially by answering the questions at the curbside, reduces their ability to turn a few questions into a full-fledged search of your property.

Police don’t need a warrant if they suspect a crime in progress

Unless you invite them inside, officers usually need a warrant to gain entry into your home. The only exception to that rule would be a situation in which the officer witnesses something that makes them suspect a crime currently in progress. Hearing someone scream, for example, could be grounds to enter your home without consent or a warrant.

Similarly, smells, like the smell of marijuana, could give an officer a reason to enter your home because it indicates a crime currently happening. The Supreme Court has even ruled in favor of police officers who interpreted the sound of a toilet flushing as evidence of a crime. If officers suspect the destruction of evidence through the use of toilets, garbage disposals, paper shredders or other devices, they can enter the property without a warrant, as the destruction of evidence is a crime.

Unless you give officers a reason to enter your home or they show up with a warrant, police cannot just come into your home to search for whatever they want. When officers do present a warrant, make sure it is properly executed and accurate. Small mistakes on the warrant can invalidate the evidence officers find during a search and help you keep them out of your home.