What if… Police knock on your door to question you?
What if police knock at your front door and say they want to talk to you. The situation I’m talking about today is not when police are there because you were a witness to a car wreck, or you called police yourself and requested their assistance. What I’m talking about is when police are at your front door conducting a criminal investigation using what is referred to as “knock and talk.” They are looking for evidence of criminal activity. They don’t have a search warrant. but they are looking for evidence of criminal activity. Do you have to talk to them? Do you have to open the door? What should you do in this situation? Hi, my name is Dale Savage and I’m a criminal defense attorney here in Charleston, SC. Today we’re talking about what you should do if police conduct a knock and talk at your home and want to question you.
Knock and Talk is a Criminal Investigation Technique
Knock and talk is a technique used by police when conducting a criminal investigation into illegal activity either by you, at your house, or both. Before 2015 in South Carolina police were allowed to use this tactic without any restrictions because they were treated as any private citizen was treated when they knocked on someone’s front door, and that was an invited guest just like a neighbor, friend, or delivery driver.
All that changed in 2015 when the South Carolina Supreme Court said that the “knock and talk” technique is a criminal investigative technique used for the sole purpose of discovering criminal activity.
In South Carolina our state constitution has the right to privacy provision included in the section prohibiting unreasonable search and seizures, which in turn creates a distinct privacy right that applies both within and outside the search and seizure context.
What this means is that you must analyze these types of cases on not only in the context of the traditional, 1) unlawful search and seizure basis but also 2) based on your right to privacy pursuant to our state constitution.
The reason for this is that our Supreme Court said that the privacy interest in one’s home is the most sacrosanct, and therefore there must be some threshold evidentiary basis for law enforcement to approach a private residence.
Legal Standard Required by Police
That legal threshold is reasonable suspicion. Police must have some fact or facts that they can articulate before they approach a targeted residence and conduct a knock and talk investigation. This stops police from going on a fishing expedition while conducting a criminal investigation at your front door without a legal reason.
What You Should Do
So, if police do come to your door without a warrant and they want to question you, there’s no legal requirement you have to open the door. You can talk to them through the door and ask them what they want. At that point they are going to tell you they’d like to speak to you about something. You can talk to them as much as you want or even let them in and go through your house if you want. But if you want to assert your rights and more importantly protect your right against unlawful search and seizures or your privacy rights then you can tell them “No thank you” I’m not interested in talking to you or that you are asserting your fifth amendment right to remain silent. You don’t have to open the door. Is this going to make them suspicious? Absolutely. But remember they are already suspicious because they are conducting a criminal investigation using the knock and talk tactic, and this is what you can do legally in this situation to protect yourself.
So remember, if police come to your front door without a warrant door to question you in a criminal investigation, you do have options, I hope this video was helpful and thanks for watching.