Can Police Enter My Property Without a Search Warrant?
There is a loud, firm knock on your door. You look through the peephole and see two uniformed police officers standing on your porch. What do you do? In the movies you always hear about how the police must have a search warrant before entering a property.
In real life can police enter your property without a search warrant? The answer is under certain circumstances – yes.
Here is what you need to know before letting the police onto you property.
Under the NSW Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002, the police can legally enter your property or the premise you reside in if you give them permission to enter by an invitation. However, keep in mind once they are in if they see anything unlawful you could end up being charged for something completely unrelated.
In all circumstances, it is best NOT to allow Police to enter your premises unless they have a lawful reason to do so.
For example, let’s say the police are going door to door because someone has called in strange odour in your building. They ask if they can come in and take a look around. You have not done anything wrong, so you figure why not. Unfortunately, your mate left a half smoked spliff in the ashtray on your coffee table from the poker game you hosted last night. The police casually eye the joint and now they have probable cause to search your premise for more contraband.
Under Section 9 of The Act, “Powers to Enter in an Emergency,” police can enter a private property without a warrant or invitation if they believe on reasonable grounds that someone has “suffered significant physical injury” or there is “imminent danger of a significant injury” to an individual. The police then have the “authority to enter the premise in order to prevent further significant injury.”
However, under this Section police can also enter a private property if there is or is likely to be a “breach of the peace” or it is “necessary to enter the premise immediately to end or prevent the breach of peace.” This Section relates to violence or property damage but it also means if you are having a loud party at 2 a.m., the police have the right to enter your property to put an end to the party. Once again if they see, hear or smell anything suspect you could get into trouble.
Also under Part 2 Section 10 “Powers of Entry” of The Act, “Power to enter to arrest or detain someone or execute warrant,” the police do not need an invitation or a warrant to enter a dwelling or private property if they reasonably believe “that the person to be arrested or detained is in the dwelling” or to execute an arrest warrant.
In situations of domestic violence under Section 82, a police officer can enter a dwelling if he or she believes on reasonable grounds that an act of domestic violence is or may have recently been committed, or is imminent, or is likely to be committed even if another occupier of the dwelling refuses entry to the police.
Also, if the police are given invitation to enter the premise by someone who resides in the dwelling and they suspect to be a victim of domestic violence, they may enter and remain on the premise even if another occupier refuses.
Note that under all of the above situations, the police can still only stay as long as is need be to take the actions required or permitted and only the action that is reasonably necessary.
What if the police do an unlawful search, can the information they obtain as a result of the search be used against you in court?
Factors that the court will take into consideration when making a decision whether to include the information is:
- how seriously the police breached he law,
- whether the breach in law was deliberate,
- how serious the offence you are allege to commit is, and/or
- how important the information is to the case.
Having uniformed police officers suddenly appear at your door can be very intimidating. In such moments it is easy to get confused or lose your cool. Remember your rights. If the police have a search warrant ask to see it. If not, politely inform them that you do not agree to any searches and as soon as possible contact a Criminal Defence Lawyer immediately.