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When can police enter a home due to a crime in progress?

In most scenarios, police officers need either a warrant or someone’s consent to search personal property. However, when they have reason to suspect that there is a violent crime in progress, they can occasionally force their way onto a property.

Homeowners and renters alike should be aware that if officers arrive at a property and witness something that indicates criminal activity, the officers could break down a door or otherwise force their way inside to stop a crime in progress. Those inside a residence typically need to understand when the police could enter without permission or a warrant.

Indications of drugs and violence justify forced entry

In some cases, police officers might hear something through a door that makes them believe that there is a crime currently in progress. They might hear someone crying or sounds that indicate there may be a violent attack in progress. On the other hand, it might be something that they see through the window on the door that makes them believe that there is a serious criminal incident underway inside. When it comes to drug offenses, it could even be an odor that gives an officer justification to demand entry without a warrant or the permission of the people living at the property.

Sounds that indicate the destruction of evidence are also justification

Arguments about when it is appropriate for police officers to force their way into a property over suspicion of a crime in progress have made it to the federal Supreme Court previously. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled in an eight-to-one split to validate the decision of police officers to force entry at a property because the sound of the toilet flushing could indicate the destruction of drug evidence. Therefore, noises that might indicate an effort to destroy evidence, including paper shredders, garbage disposals in sinks and toilets flushing but all give police officers justification to force their way onto a property.

Sometimes, the police overstep their authority and take actions that are clearly a violation of the rights of the individuals involved. Seeking legal guidance to better understand how the courts have historically interpreted the Fourth Amendment in criminal cases can help those who are hoping to prepare an effective criminal defense strategy with the help of an attorney.