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As a United States citizen, you have the right to not incriminate yourself to law enforcement. Despite this, police officers tend to use different tactics to gain the incriminating evidence they are looking for before they have even come across anything that indicates a person has done anything wrong. One of these tactics is known as “knock and talk.” Knowing how to deal with a knock and talk search could save you from being prosecuted of a crime.
As the term suggests, this tactic is rather straight forward. Usually, a police officer or officers will knock on a person’s door and ask to discuss possible criminal allegations. This is done when a warrant does not exist to allow the officers to search the premises without the permission of the owner. The warrant probably doesn’t exist because the officers don’t have probable cause.
This can then be thought of as a legal work around for the police to avoid the 4th amendment protections of the constitution against illegal searches and seizures. This is done through the pretense of simply discussing an investigation. However, while inside, the officers can make visual observations and gain the information they need to make an arrest. They also may be more direct and ask for the owner’s permission to perform the search. If granted, any evidence that is found could be used to convict that person of a crime.
However, as mentioned before, it is a person’s constitutional right to not be illegally searched. The police have no right to enter that property without a warrant. They can be told no, and that refusal can’t be used as probable cause either. A person doesn’t even need to answer the door. These reactions should be protected under the constitution.
However, even if permission is granted by the owner, the search could still be determined to have been illegal. The key here is whether or not the property owner did give consent without any form of coercion. If the police, for example, were slamming hard on a person’s door and screaming at them to open up, the owner may have believed that he or she had no choice.
During a knock and talk search, the owner should not be forced to leave the home. The owner should also have the right to ask the police officers to leave if he or she becomes uncomfortable at any point during the search. Without a warrant, the police officers are only acting as the homeowner’s guests. They have no right to control the property or make demands of the owner.
Unfortunately, police officers do sometimes abuse this investigative tactic. If abuse did occur, it was more than likely an unconstitutional search. If that is the case, any evidence produced from such a search cannot be used as part of a criminal prosecution. Even if a person is convicted of the crime, the decision could later be reversed if it is discovered that an illegal search produced the evidence presented in court.