Do You Have to Answer the Door for Police in NJ?

The police have a lot of power and often bulldoze their way through certain situations. While the police can get away with a lot, there are limits to their authority.

You do not necessarily have to answer if the police ever come knocking on your door. Generally, you do not have to interact with law enforcement if you do not wish to, and you do not have to answer your door for a police officer. However, the situation is different when the police have a warrant. In that case, you must answer your door for the police and let them in your home, depending on the situation. There are even situations where you must answer your door for the police without a warrant. Emergency circumstances, such as being in hot pursuit of a fleeing suspect, temporarily give the police broader authority, and defying this authority might lead to trouble.

Interacting with law enforcement is rarely easy, and people might feel pressured to do whatever the police say. Our NJ criminal defense attorneys can help you if you believe the police overstepped their boundaries. For a free case assessment, call Young, Marr, Mallis & Deane at (609) 755-3115.

Do I Have to Answer My Door for the NJ Police?

Unless special circumstances exist, you typically do not have to open the door for the police. This might seem strange to some, as many are taught from a young age always to obey the police. However, the police are not always on your side or looking out for your best interests. If you believe you are under criminal investigation, answering the door for law enforcement might be a huge mistake. You should contact our NJ criminal defense lawyers for help immediately.

If the police are at your front door but you are unsure whether you must answer the door, you can ask the officers (through the closed door) why they are there. Pay attention to how they answer your questions. If they are there on some routine matter or genuinely need your help, they will probably say so. If they dodge the question or try to coax you into opening the door, be wary.

While the police can do a lot of things, outright lying about their authority is not one of them. You can ask the officers at your door (still through the closed door) if they have a warrant or if you are under arrest. If they answer no, keep the door closed and call an attorney.

What to Do When the Police Are at Your Door with a Warrant in NJ

Ordinarily, you do not have to submit to the authority of law enforcement just because they say so. However, if the police show up at your home with a warrant, their authority is much greater, and you must open the door. Even if the warrant does not lead to your arrest, it might mean something very serious is on the horizon, and you should call our NJ criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible.

Search warrants are issued when the police conduct criminal investigations and want to uncover evidence. Typically, the police need search warrants if the evidence they want is somewhere they cannot ordinarily go, like a person’s private residence. The search warrant must be based on sufficient probable cause that a crime has been committed and evidence of that crime will be found in a certain location (i.e., your home). In such an instance, you need to answer the door and allow the police to execute the warrant, even if you know there is no evidence in your home.

You must also answer the door if the police say they have an arrest warrant, even if you are not the one being arrested. Arrest warrants have similar probable cause requirements as search warrants. The police must first establish probable cause that a crime has been committed and that the person they wish to arrest likely committed the crime.

In many cases, the police will perform what is known as a knock-and-announce. A knock-and-announce is when the police knock on the door and announce their purpose (e.g., to arrest, search, investigate). The knock-and-announce rule has been developed by courts rather than statutes and does not always need to be followed. If the police do not knock and announce before entering your home to execute a warrant, the results of the warrant are not necessarily tainted. Even so, our Trenton criminal defense attorneys can use that information to defend you against potential criminal charges.

Answering the Door for the NJ Police Under Emergency Circumstances

There are several situations where the police might knock and your door without a warrant, but you must answer and allow them in. While the warrant rule is the gold standard when opening your door to law enforcement, exigent circumstances are an exception to the rule. If the police entered your home and claimed an emergency circumstance, our East Brunswick criminal defense attorneys can help you figure out what to do.

One example of an emergency circumstance is hot pursuit, or when the police are chasing a fleeing suspect. Hot pursuit often happens when the police witness a person committing a crime, and the suspect runs away to evade arrest. In some cases, fleeing suspects will run through private homes and yards to escape the police, and the police will follow suit.

You must also answer the door for the police if they believe there is someone inside your home in need of emergency help. For example, if someone in your home called 911 for help, you cannot refuse to answer the door when the police show up.

Call Our NJ Criminal Defense Attorneys About a Free Case Assessment

Refusing to answer the door for the police when they have a warrant or there is an emergency might lead to criminal charges. Our Hamilton, NJ criminal defense lawyers can help you defend yourself against the overreach of law enforcement. For a free case review, call Young, Marr, Mallis & Deane at (609) 755-3115.