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When unexpected visitors are police officers

If you've ever been relaxing at home when there's a sudden knock on your door you weren't expecting, you understand how startling such moments can be.

What if you peek through your window and immediately notice that the people standing on your threshold appear to be police officers? If you're like most people, this type of situation can really make your heart beat faster.

While some people's instincts are to open the door and welcome those wearing badges inside, doing so could place you at risk for all sorts of complications, depending on the reason for an impromptu law enforcement visit.

In such circumstances, knowing what your rights are ahead of time can help you be proactive to protect yourself in moments of uncertainty and potential trouble.

Top 8 things to keep in mind when police knock on your door

1. Even though the people standing outside your home may be wearing what appear to be police uniforms, you have every right to request proper identification.

2. If, after identifying themselves, police ask to come inside, you may step outside and close the door behind you, then explain that you are not willing to allow them entrance to your home unless they have a valid warrant that gives them reason to come inside.

3. Police may secure your premises while they obtain a required warrant.

4. Should they ignore your refusal and enter your home anyway, you may contest these actions in court.

5. If police produce a search warrant, you must allow them into your home. It is wise to remain as calm as possible and cooperate as best you can without providing any statements or information that may be self-incriminating.

6. It is typically best to inform police of any dogs or other animals on your premises that they may consider threatening.

7. It may be helpful to memorize officers' names, patrol car numbers, badge numbers, etc.

8. Know that police may electronically record the unfolding events; therefore, it is wise to choose your words and actions carefully.

This basic information can help you protect your rights and minimize negative consequences of an unexpected police visit to your home. But, what happens if, while searching your residence, police start picking things up and placing them in plastic bags, then tell you you're being arrested and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia or controlled substances or some other type of drug-related crime? Even then, you have rights. Officers must act in accordance with protocol that protects your privacy and promotes fair and due process through the criminal justice system.

Getting an advocate to scrutinize the events

Immediately following your detainment, which occurs when any officers have stepped inside your house while saying they want to ask you a few questions, you may request representation from a criminal defense attorney. As your personal advocate, an attorney can scrutinize the events leading up to and following your arrest and advise you how best to present a strong defense to fight the charges against you.

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Messer Law Firm
40 Clayton Street
Asheville, NC 28801

Phone: 828-398-0823
Fax: 828-251-1578
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