Can police knock on my door?

If you are under investigation by the police, can they just walk up to your door and talk to you?  Thanks to a recent court decision, not anymore.  The South Carolina Supreme Court recently ruled in State v. Counts that:

When police target a residence for illegal activity they must have reasonable suspicion of illegal activity before they knock on the front door.

What is Knock and Talk?

Knock and Talk is a police investigative technique where they approach your door and tell you that you are a suspect in a crime.  The potential for abuse arises when police attempt to gain access to the home from your consent, without a warrant.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that this technique was constitutionally permissible.  See Florida v. Jardines. (We have accordingly recognized that the knocker on the front door is treated as an invitation or license to attempt entry, justifying ingress to the home by solicitors, hawkers and peddlers of all kinds… Thus, a police officer not armed with a warrant may approach a home and knock, precisely because that is no more than any private citizen might do.)

South Carolina Invasion of Privacy

So if the U.S. Supreme Court says police can knock on your door without a warrant why can’t they do this in South Carolina?  In short the South Carolina state constitution provides for greater protection than the federal constitution.  Both the state and federal constitution provides for a safeguard against unlawful search and seizures by the government (police).  However, state courts may afford more expansive rights under State Constitutional provisions than rights which, are afforded by the Federal Constitution.  The Federal constitution sets the floor for individual rights while the state constitution establishes the ceiling.  Essentially, the state constitution can provide greater protection than the Federal Constitution.  In South Carolina the state constitution does just that.  The additional protection against “unreasonable invasions of privacy” means now that there must be some minimum evidentiary standard met before law enforcement can conduct a warrantless search of a South Carolina residence.

Police need reasonable suspicion

Now law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion of illegal activity before approaching the targeted residence and conducting the “knock and talk” investigative technique.  Why did the court require this?  Two reasons, First, it’s explicitly stated in the state’s constitution and secondly, the privacy interests in one’s home are the most sacrosanct, where the court held that there must be some threshold evidentiary basis for law enforcement to approach a private residence.

What should you do?

Never give consent to come in and search.  Why?  If you do get arrested, let your attorney fight the search issue and make the government prove they had a reason to search your house without a warrant.  If you provide consent you are waiving this challenge and will make it almost impossible to assert your right against an unlawful search.

Charleston Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have a search issue from a police knock and talk investigative technique call an experienced and trusted Charleston criminal defense attorney at the Dale Savage Law Firm today for a free case consultation (843) 530-7813.

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