Thanks to the Fourth Amendment, which protects American citizens from unreasonable searches by the government, homeowners can deny a police officer’s request to search their home without a warrant. While the Fourth Amendment is clear about the rights of homeowners in regards to police searches without a warrant, it doesn’t clarify whether police dogs can sniff at one’s front door without a warrant in the state of Minnesota.
Supreme Court Ruling on Police Searches
In March 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police officers violated the Fourth Amendment by having police dogs sniff at the front door of the house of an individual suspected of growing marijuana. The high court deemed that the use of police dogs counted as a “search,” even though the police went no further than the front porch of the house. In a 5-to-4 decision, the search was deemed unconstitutional because the police failed to get a search warrant from a judge.
In the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that a police officer who does not have a warrant can knock on the front door. However, Scalia deemed that using a police dog to scout the perimeter of the home violates the rights of homeowners granted by the Fourth Amendment.
This decision confirms the property-based approach to the Fourth Amendment. According to the property-based approach, cases involving the Fourth Amendment should be decided based on whether the underlying actions could be considered a search. Any time the government physically intrudes onto houses, persons, papers, or effects, this physical intrusion is considered a search for Fourth Amendment purposes.
What Should You Do If the Police Knock on the Front Door?
While it’s one thing to be aware of the rights afforded to you by the Fourth Amendment, it’s something else to actually exercise these rights. Here are a few tips that will help in the event police knock on the front door without a warrant in Minnesota.
If police are at the door, you can pretend you aren’t home or open the door. There is no law that says you must open the door for police officers who don’t have a warrant. Whether you open the door should depend on your comfort level. You can make your presence known or simply pretend not to be home.
Should you decide to ignore the police, try to use the video camera of your cellphone to record the incident, especially if the police try to open the door or search the perimeter of your home with police dogs. Ensure you don’t make it obvious that you’re recording them as the police officers may destroy your device.
On the other hand, if you decide to make your presence known, you should only talk to the police through the door only. Do not talk to the police through a window, because they can claim you possess a gun and legally break into your home. Even if the police officer moves to the window, stay at the door.
Also, keep in mind that the Fifth Amendment grants you the right to remain silent. If you decide to remain silent, announce your decision. Speak to the police officer as little as possible and don’t give any personal information. You do not need to show your ID or any other personal documentation.
For more information about whether police dogs can sniff at your front door without a warrant in Minnesota, don’t hesitate to contact Judith Samson Attorney at Law. If you would like to discuss your case in private, contact me to schedule a free initial consultation with a skilled Minnesota criminal defense attorney.
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