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When police come knocking, do you have to let them in?

Have you ever noticed you react entirely different when an expected guest arrives to your home and knocks on your door or you suddenly hear knocking that you were not expecting to hear? In the first example, you may feel happy and eager to open your door and welcome your friend inside. When the latter occurs, however, you might feel startled or even afraid when you hear pounding on your door you did not expect.

If you peer through a window or security lens on your door and see several people who appear to be uniformed New Jersey police officers, it may be enough to make your blood pressure soar. In such circumstances, you may wonder whether you are legally obligated to open the door and allow the officers inside. It's crucial to clearly understand your rights and also to know where to turn for support if you believe someone is violating those rights.

Immigrants and citizens have the same rights

Nowadays, immigration officers often show up unannounced at people's homes. Those in uniform who are knocking on your door may also be members of a drug task force who claim to be investigating a possible crime. The following list provides information about your rights in both circumstances and also where you can seek assistance if things don't go your way:

  • Just because someone is knocking on your door, no matter who it may be, doesn't mean you are obligated to open it. New Jersey crime rates being what they are today, it's always a good idea to keep your doors locked at all times. You do not have to unlock and open your door. If you choose to do so, you may speak through your door.
  • If police start asking you questions, you are under no legal obligation to answer. You may, however, ask them to present something written on official letterhead that explains the reason for their visits and inform them that you will have an attorney contact them as soon as possible.
  • A group of police asking questions outside your door or wanting to enter your home to look around can be extremely intimidating. It's crucial that you remain as calm as possible and know how to protect your rights.
  • Never sign anything, and remember that you can emphatically state that you do not consent to a search. In fact, without a valid search warrant, you do not have to let police or other investigators enter your home. If you so choose, you may step outside your home and close your door behind you; however, you may, as stated earlier, simply remain inside your home behind a closed door.

If police produce a warrant, you must let them search your home. You'll want to make sure anything you wish to keep private (such as whatever happens to be showing on your computer or cellphone screen at the time) remains private by shutting down your electronics and closing your doors before the officers enter your house.

Remember that you are entitled to legal representation any time you are a subject in a criminal investigation. You do not have to wait for prosecutors to file charges to ask to speak with a New Jersey attorney.

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