Few things are as intimidating as police officers knocking on your door. Police may knock in the middle of the night. They might have a warrant for your arrest.  Or the officers are asking questions about an incident on your street. Whether you are a suspect in a crime or not, it’s important to know what to do if the police come to your door in Maryland.

It’s vital to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible after an arrest. However, any mistakes you make during initial contact with the police can harm your case. The police know this. Officers often apprehend people when they least expect it, hoping they will be caught unawares.  How you should react to a police situation depends on your status and what the police are investigating.  Baltimore criminal defense lawyer Randolph Rice discusses the protocol you should follow if the cops come to your door in Maryland.

The Police Come to Your Door in Maryland – What Should You Do?

Initially, find out why the police are at your door. The officers should be direct with you. If they ask about an incident in the area or whether you witnessed anything, there is no reason not to talk to them. Even in this situation, there is no obligation to talk to the police.

You do not have to open the door to a police officer unless the official has a warrant. In some cases, police respond to a noise complaint such as a barking dog. Try to diffuse these situations by agreeing to work with the officer without admitting blame for anything.

If the police ask you about your own actions, be on your guard. You could easily incriminate yourself by even answering questions that seem harmless like your whereabouts at a certain time. Avoid giving the police any information beyond the basics of your name and address until you talk to a criminal defense lawyer.

What Happens if the Police Come to Your Door in Maryland With a Warrant for Your Arrest?

If the police arrive at your door with a warrant for your arrest, you will most likely be taken into custody.

A judge grants an arrest warrant if a prosecutor presents enough evidence for the court to believe an arrest is necessary. The courts routinely use arrest warrants for a failure to appear in a criminal case.

A police officer with an arrest warrant can immediately take you to a detention center for booking. You should not resist being taken into custody under these circumstances because you will be hit with further resisting arrest charges.

Do the Police Have the Right to Search Your Home in Maryland?

Police who come to your home may ask if they can go inside and search your property.  Never allow them to do so unless they have a warrant. Under the United States Constitution and Maryland law, a resident’s home is protected.

Your home is like your castle in Medieval times when many present-day laws developed. Your right to be free of intrusion in your home extends to police searches.

In Maryland, police are not allowed in your home unless they have a search warrant, an arrest warrant, or exigent circumstances exist. A judge must sign a search warrant. It must specify the places in your home that police can go into. Police should carry out searches at reasonable times unless a judge authorizes a search at night. You should never allow officers to go into your home without a warrant. It’s advisable to not even open the door unless the police can show they have a warrant.

Exigent circumstances are extraordinary situations. Officers may say they need to gain access to a home without a warrant. These situations are judgment calls made in the heat of the moment. A defense lawyer will challenge suspect judgment calls in court and seek to suppress evidence. The most common exigent circumstance used by police is the destruction of evidence. For example, during a drug investigation police may claim drugs will be hastily destroyed unless they immediately enter a property.

If a fight is taking place, the police may enter a property to protect a victim. Maryland law allows police to enter the home to stop the destruction of evidence, but a judge must agree that the officer’s actions were reasonable for evidence from a search to be used in a case against a suspect.

When Can a Search Warrant Be Granted in Maryland?

In Maryland a judge can issue a search warrant if there is probable cause to believe the following:

  • A felony or a misdemeanor is being committed by someone in a building, apartment, premises, place, or another location in the territorial jurisdiction of the judge; or
  • Property subject to the seizure is on the person or in or on the building, apartment, premises, place, or entity.

Applications for search warrants must be in writing, signed and sworn by the applicant and set forth the basis for probable cause. It should detail the areas to be searched and be executed within 15 days.

Right to Remain Silent in Home Police Visits in Maryland

You have a right to remain silent under the law. Police officers are used to dealing with people who don’t answer questions.

However, officers have a lot of tried and tested ways of getting you to say things that will incriminate yourself. Police face an uphill task in criminal cases. The prosecution must prove you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Even small admissions can help them in their case against you.

Any statements that you make to the police could be used against you. They could result in additional charges in court.  The police officers will not be upset if you don’t talk and it won’t further incriminate you. We are not all familiar with Miranda Rights but anyone who watches cop shows knows the wording. Police officers and other law enforcement officials must say something along the following lines in court to give a Miranda Warning:

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

The U.S. Supreme Court set out the Miranda rights in the 1966 case of Miranda v. Arizona. It’s police 101 to read a suspect their rights on arrest and it would be highly unusual for a police officer to fail to follow this procedure. Suspects are typically less compliant. It’s understandable to want to protest your innocence of a crime but on the doorstep during an arrest is not the right time to do so. It’s important for suspects to say as little as possible to police at this time.

Talk to a Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Rights

At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, we have defended people after their arrest by the police for decades. If the police show up at your door arrest you, one of the first calls to make should be to your criminal defense lawyer.

Attorney Randolph Rice helps people charged with misdemeanors and felonies across Maryland. Before becoming a private defense lawyer, Mr. Rice was an Assistant State’s Attorney for Baltimore County, Maryland. Please contact us at (410) 834-3859.