Both the Fourth Amendment and prior court rulings determine what kind of police activity is legal during an investigation. Frequently, police officers need a warrant if they want to search someone’s living space. Some police officers get around the requirement for a warrant by instead soliciting permission from someone who lives at the home.
Without a warrant or permission, there are only a handful of scenarios in which police officers can force their way onto private property and conduct a search. Probable cause to suspect a crime in progress, like the smell of drugs cooking, would be one reason for police to insist on immediate access to a property.
A hot pursuit or police chase of a suspect from a crime scene could also give officers the right to enter your home or your yard without your permission. Thankfully, there are limitations even when police officers chase a criminal on foot somewhere near your home.
The Supreme Court has ruled on hot pursuit cases
Not every police chase justifies an officer’s actions, especially if they intend to infringe on someone’s civil rights. Police officers often have to make decisions in the heat of the moment, and the courts later review those decisions and decide if they were appropriate or not.
When an officer follows a suspect from one crime scene and the suspect enters private property, that may be the end of the pursuit. If the offense is a basic misdemeanor crime, a police officer likely could not use the pursuit as a justification to force their way into someone’s home.
The Supreme Court ruled that minor offenses do not justify officers forcing entry onto private property during a pursuit. However, when a suspect is an immediate threat to the public or has fled the scene of a felony offense, officers could follow them onto private property and use force to gain access to that property if necessary.
Officers might misrepresent the situation to you
Technically, there are no rules preventing police officers from lying to criminal suspects or members of the public. They could tell you anything that they think will get you to implicate yourself or give them access to a certain space to search the way they want.
Individuals who are fully aware of their rights when dealing with the police or facing charges in criminal court will have an easier time responding when officers show up at their homes unexpectedly. Knowing the rules that limit police conduct can help you determine an appropriate defense strategy when accused of breaking the law.