When police knock on your door, you may get worried.  Noise complaints are one of the most common reasons that police interact with people at their front door, but for you, it may be the first time you’ve really faced a police officer.  Whether you have prior experience dealing with police or not, that moment when the police are at your door can cause you to second guess your rights and question what you can and cannot do – and what police are allowed to do.  The Baltimore criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Randolph Rice explains why police generally cannot enter your house during a noise complaint – and what exceptions might allow them to come inside and search your home.

Can Police Come Inside While Responding to a Noise Complaint?

If police respond to a noise complaint, this usually does not give them the right to enter your home or search your house.  Police may respond to noise complaints by knocking on your door, talking to you or whoever else answers, and asking you to turn down the music or stop the excessive noise.  In some cases, they will let you off with a warning, but sometimes they may write you a ticket for the noise violation.  In most cases, these encounters can be simple and do not lead to any further issues.

When a police officer knocks on your door to investigate a noise complaint, they typically do not get the right to enter your house.  Just because you are answering the door does not give police the right to come in unless you invite them inside.  Police may ask you if they can come inside so they can avoid talking in the hallway, if you live in an apartment, or so that excess noise does not spill out through your open door.  You do not have to invite them in or agree to let them in at this time.

Usually, noise violations are not “crimes” that justify a police officer entering your home to gather evidence or arrest you for the offense.  This means that police will typically not come inside, and you can usually refuse them entry.  If they want to arrest you for the noise violation or for belligerent behavior toward them, they may be able to – which might allow them to chase you into your home so that they can reach you.  If that happens, they may be able to search the immediate area around you for weapons, e.g., by looking in any bins or drawers near where you were arrested.

Generally, police need a search warrant to enter your house under the rules listed in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  A warrant is a document signed by a judge certifying that the law enforcement officer has shown probable cause to search your house by providing specific facts that show it is likely there is evidence of a crime in your house.  Without this, police generally cannot enter your home and must rely on other excuses, such as those listed below, to get inside your home.

When Warrantless Searches After Noise Complaints Are Legal in Maryland

Although police usually can’t come inside or search your home because of a noise complaint, they can search your home and arrest you if they find other issues when you answer the door.  When a police officer is standing in your doorway, they may be able to see inside your house.  If they spot any evidence of a crime from the doorway, they can usually walk in, seize the evidence, and arrest you if they have probable cause that you committed a crime.  Police can also enter your house if they see signs that someone is in trouble or that evidence is being destroyed.  These are known as “exigent circumstances,” and they allow police officers to ignore the standard warrant requirements.

If a police officer is legally standing at your front door, they can act upon any evidence they see inside your home.  This is known as the “plain view doctrine,” and is one of the strongest tools police use in investigations.  Typically, if police have to respond to a noise complaint, they will take the opportunity to look at you and peek through the front door to make sure there are no other crimes taking place.  During noise complaints, police often find evidence of other crimes, such as spotting underage drinking inside the house, illegal weapons on the table, or signs of drug crimes or drug use.

Police can also enter your house if they spot signs that someone is in trouble.  This is common when noise complaints are made for screaming or other sounds potentially related to domestic violence.  If police think someone needs medical attention inside your home, they may enter without your permission.  Once inside, the plain view doctrine again kicks in, allowing them to seize any evidence they find in plain view.

Police may also come into your house if they think evidence of a crime is being destroyed.  For instance, if you answer the door and the officers hear people in the background shouting about flushing drugs, they may be able to enter to prevent the destruction of evidence.

Remember that police can also enter your house if you give them permission.  It is typically not a good idea to invite police inside, as they can arrest you or ticket you for any crimes they witness once lawfully inside.

Call Our Baltimore Criminal Defense Attorney for a Free Legal Consultation

If police responded to a noise complaint then arrested you for another crime, you may be entitled to get charges dropped and evidence suppressed.  Police must follow certain rules and procedures to be able to arrest you or seize evidence from your home – and if they fail to follow these rules, the evidence should be thrown out.  For a free legal consultation on your criminal charges and help fighting any criminal cases against you, call the Law Offices of Randolph Rice’s Baltimore criminal defense lawyer today at (410) 694-7291.