It’s always disconcerting to find the police at your door. It may be more disturbing, however, to realize that police often use what’s called a “knock and talk” tactic to gain entrance to someone’s residence.
When an officer knocks on your door and asks you to speak with them, they aren’t there for a social visit. They’re actively investigating suspected criminal activity – and they probably think that you’re involved.
Why don’t they just get a warrant?
There are basically two reasons knock and talks are used. First, it takes time to get a warrant, and the police have to have actual probable cause to believe that they’ll find evidence of a crime to get a judge to issue one. If they’re early into an investigation, they may not have any real evidence to do it.
Second, a knock and talk can be surprisingly effective. Even though the authorities acknowledge that knock and talks are ripe for abuse – they’re still considered legal when they’re done properly, and many people are either intimated into compliance when an officer comes calling or they simply don’t realize the risks they’re taking when they open their doors.
How should you deal with this situation?
Unless the police have a warrant in hand, you have no obligation to open your door when they knock – and you probably shouldn’t. If you open your door, you give the police the chance to see into your home. If they see anything that could be considered evidence of criminal activity in plain sight, they won’t need either a warrant or your permission to push you aside and enter.
You can choose not to talk to the police at all. If you do choose to speak to them, you should either do so through your door or only after you have exited your residence through a different door (so that you allow no opportunity to peek inside your residence).
Be prepared for the officers to ask permission to enter your residence. They’re counting on the fact that people feel like they have to comply or are too afraid of looking guilty of something to refuse. Be polite, but firm, when you tell them that you do not consent. Tell them that you can take their business card and get back to them after you’ve obtained legal guidance.