The law traditionally states that a man’s home is his castle, and the government is typically not allowed to exercise its power in your house.  That protects your privacy and the free choices you make about how your household and your family works.  However, it does not provide you with unlimited power there; general criminal laws still apply, and police can still reach you in your house.  While you can be arrested in your home in Maryland, the circumstances that have to be met are often more strict than for public arrests, and you are afforded additional protections in your house.  However, many of these issues are complex, so you should speak with an attorney about your case.  The Law Offices of Randolph Rice’s Baltimore criminal defense lawyers explain some of the laws surrounding police arresting you at home, plus we offer free legal consultations for you to get advice and legal help with your case.

Do Police Need a Warrant to Enter My House?

Generally, police are not allowed to enter your house without your permission or a search warrant.  This means that if they want to get inside your house, they cannot legally do so without asking you or going to court and getting a warrant signed by a judge.  In many cases, this means that you can turn a police officer away if they come to your door to investigate a crime.  However, there are exceptions to this.

Police are allowed to legally rely on “exigencies” to get into a home without a warrant.  “Exigent” essentially means “time-sensitive” or “pressing,” and police are allowed to ignore general warrant requirements when there is something time-sensitive or an emergency that stops them from going to a judge and getting a warrant.  Typically, police will rely on one of the following exigent circumstances to get into your home without a warrant:

  • Health emergency – If there are signs that someone is being injured or needs immediate assistance, police can enter a private home. This could occur if there are signs that someone is being assaulted or murdered inside – and you can be arrested if you are caught red-handed in the commission of a crime.
  • Hot pursuit – If police are chasing a suspect, they can enter a private home to follow them. This means that you cannot run into your house to avoid arrest.
  • Destruction of evidence – If police come to your house to ask you about a crime or seek further information and they hear, see, or otherwise witness you destroying evidence inside, they can come in and stop you. This could include things like shredding documents, flushing drugs, or burning other evidence.

These exigent circumstances merely give police a right to enter your house without a warrant – but police must still meet the other requirements of the Fourth Amendment.  This means that they must have probable cause that a crime was committed before they can legally enter the house without a warrant, even if there are exigent circumstances.

Can I Be Arrested at Home with an Arrest Warrant?

If police have a warrant for your arrest, they can typically arrest you wherever you might be found.  If they know where you work, they can intercept you on your way there or go into the business to arrest you there.  Similarly, police can go to your house if they know you live there.  Sometimes, a judge will refuse to sign a warrant for an arrest at home unless the police can provide evidence that the person to be arrested actually lives there.  This is common if the address on file with the MVA or the court does not match the address where the police want to arrest you.

Generally speaking, police will knock and announce they are police officers and say that they have a warrant when going to a home for an arrest.  These situations are sometimes dangerous for police and the people being arrested, and law enforcement generally does not want to try to break in or sneak into a house, since the owner might mistake them for a burglar and shoot them.  However, some people will open fire at police whether they announce they are police or not, so law enforcement officers typically take these situations very seriously when arriving at someone’s home.

If no one answers the door and submits to the arrest warrant, the police may be able to break down the door to enter and arrest them.  Police may sometimes get special permission to enter a home without knocking and announcing their presence (with a “no-knock warrant”), but these usually require proof that it would be safer or that they need to catch the subject by surprise to prevent a hostage situation, a shootout, or evidence destruction.

Can Police Arrest Me at Home with a Bench Warrant?

A bench warrant authorizes police to arrest you, but typically police will not go to your house to arrest you on a bench warrant.  Instead, police will wait until they come across you for some other reason, such as a traffic ticket, and arrest you then.  Our bench warrant lawyer can help clear up bench warrants and prevent arrest.

Can I Be Arrested at Home After a House Search?

If police search your house, they can arrest you for any crimes they find evidence for.  This typically happens in drug possession or child pornography cases if police find you with drugs or illegal evidence while searching your home for other evidence.  Police can also put you in handcuffs during a search if they think you will try to interfere or be hostile, but that counts as an “investigatory detention,” not a full-fledged arrest.

Call Our Baltimore Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

If you or a loved one was arrested at home or otherwise think that your civil rights were violated during a search or seizure, call the Law Offices of Randolph Rice today.  Our Baltimore criminal defense lawyers might be able to have evidence or arrests dropped because of illegal searches or arrests, as well as fight your case in court.  For your free legal consultation, call (410) 694-7291 today.