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At least in the initial stages of your contact with police, it's up to you to protect your rights under the United States Constitution. The more you know about your rights, the better off you may be if you end up facing criminal charges at some point in the future.

One of the areas where many people continue to have questions is when it comes to searches and seizures. For instance, would you know what to do if police came knocking on the door of your home? Do you have to let them in? Should you even open the door?

Let's look at what your rights are in your home

When you are in your home, you receive the maximum amount of protection possible under your Constitutional rights. In most circumstances, police will need a search warrant to enter your home even if they have probable cause to believe you are doing something illegal in there. This point cannot be stressed enough since most people think they have to let police into their homes.

If you let police into your home, you may be unknowingly consenting to a search since anything you have out in "plain view" is subject to seizure. You do not have to do the police's job for them by letting them in without going through the process of obtaining a warrant, during which they have to prove they have legal reason to enter your home. Instead, you can politely and calmly refuse them entry.

What steps can you take to keep police from entering?

If police don't have a warrant, you could talk to them through the door if you choose to answer the door at all. Just because someone knocks or rings the bell doesn't mean you have to answer. You could go to another entrance to your home and then go out to the front to speak to them if you wish. You could also leave your chain lock in place and speak through that narrow opening.

The point is that you are not required to speak to police at all -- unless they present a valid search warrant. You could tell them that, if they do wish to enter and search, they should come back with a warrant. While they are gone, you may want to take this time to contact a criminal defense attorney in order to better understand your rights and begin protecting them right away.

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