The Fourth Amendment exists to protect citizens from unreasonable search. It ensures, in most cases, that a person will not have their property searched or seized without a warrant outlining probable cause for the search. When these searches do happen, there are certain procedures that law enforcement officers have to follow, which includes knocking and announcing their presence to suspects before entering their homes. However, there are certain exceptions that allow law enforcement officers to knock down a suspect’s door without a warrant in the State of Maryland. The Baltimore criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Randolph Rice explain more about when police can knock down your door without a warrant.

How the Fourth Amendment Protects You and Your Home

The Fourth Amendment exists to protect American citizens’ right to be secure from seizure of their “persons, houses, papers, and effects.” To protect this right, the law requires police to have probable cause before they perform a search. It also generally requires a warrant signed by a judge.

According to the Fourth Amendment, police can only search a suspect’s home if they have been granted a warrant by a judge. The police officer must present a sworn affidavit to a judge, which must include sufficient probable cause for the warrant. Probable cause means that there must be specific facts to prove to the judge that there is a reasonable probability that the search will find the evidence of a crime in a particular place to be searched. The warrant must specify the items that are desired to be seized and where the law enforcement officer wants to search.

A search is considered reasonable if the police have probable cause to believe that they will find evidence of a crime there and that the search does not infringe on your privacy more than it needs to. If a court determines that a search was conducted outside of the acceptable conditions for a search, then the search will be deemed illegal and any evidence found during the search will be thrown out in court through suppression.

If police knocked down your door without a warrant in the State of Maryland and found something incriminating, a court should “suppress” this evidence. This would mean that the evidence is blocked from being used against you in court, and any arrests or evidence seized based on that illegal evidence must also be thrown out.

It’s important to note that the Fourth Amendment only protects things that have a legitimate expectation of privacy. Police are allowed to look at the outside of your house, look through an open door, or peer into a window along the street since these things are generally seen by the public to begin with. Anything evidence left in plain sight can be confiscated and may be able to be used as a basis for a further search or to support a warrant.

Exceptions to Knock and Announce

When preparing to enter someone’s home for a search, police officers are required to knock on the door and announce their presence, giving occupants a reasonable amount of notice and time to open the door. There are some exceptions that allow police to enter a home without first knocking and announcing their presence. These circumstances allow police to legally knock down your door, sometimes without a warrant. The main circumstance that allows police to enter your home without obtaining permission is if there are exigent circumstances.

Exigent circumstances arise when there is an emergency situation where the time spent obtaining a search warrant would compromise public safety, could result in a loss of evidence, or allow a suspect to escape.

In a 2003 Supreme Court case, the court determined that police should wait 15 to 20 seconds after knocking before entering a home. This is considered to be a reasonable amount of time because anything more may be enough for the suspect to destroy evidence (especially evidence of drug crimes or weapon crimes). However, even shorter wait times are permissible under more extreme circumstances, dependent on the layout of the home, the time of day of the search, the nature of the offense, and the evidence that is being searched for.

Even in an emergency, police will still typically knock on a door and say that they are police. If there is no answer, they may then break down the door. Police can also break down the door or use a locksmith to enter your home if they have a warrant and no one answers.

Issuance of a No-Knock Warrant

In some cases, judges will issue a “no-knock warrant.” This type of warrant allows police to enter without announcing their presence or knocking. No-knock warrants are issued when there is a strong belief that evidence will be destroyed, hostages will be taken, or people inside the house will cause them harm or resist arrest if they announce their presence first.

Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer Offering Free Consultations

If you or someone you know has been affected by a police search and charged with a crime, get in touch with a lawyer as soon as possible. The criminal defense attorneys at Randolph Rice have experience defending those who have had their homes searched by law enforcement. Call the Maryland law offices of Randolph Rice today at (410) 694-7291.