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Knock Knock: Do I Have to Open the Door for the Police?

Answering the door is certainly the polite and neighborly thing to do.  However, does an individual have to legally open the door of his or her residence if the police come knocking? 

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that an individual does not abandon their constitutional right to privacy simply by opening her door from within to answer a knock.  U.S. v. Berkowitz, 927 F.2d 1376, 1387 (7th Cir. 1991).  An individual is free to exclude the officers, ignore any questions or inquiries, and even close the door in their faces.  Id; see also Kentucky v. King, 131 S.Ct. 1849, 1862 (2011), and Cupello v. State, 27 N.E.3d 1122, 1132 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015).  Recently in Cupello, the Indiana Court of Appeals found that an officer who placed his foot inside the threshold of the apartment was unlawfully entering into an individual’s home.  As such, the homeowner properly exercised his statutory right under Indiana Code Section 35-41-3-2(i)(2) to use reasonable force to terminate that entry and prevent further access to his home by that officer.  Id. at 1132.   The Court of Appeals then reversed and removed Cupello’s conviction for battery on a law enforcement officer.  Id.       

While the facts of each case are different and must be addressed individually, there are and may be some circumstances were individuals are within their lawful right to decline to speak to police and/or use reasonable force to exclude them from a residence.  As the Indiana Court of Appeals articulated in Cupello, that individual had the right to terminate an encounter with law enforcement and prevent further access to his home.  If you have questions or concerns about whether an encounter with law enforcement was lawful or unlawful, you should seek out experienced Indiana criminal defense attorney or a civil rights attorney to assist you. 

Contact Keffer Barnhart LLP today if you have questions or believe your constitutional rights have been violated.  We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized case.  Act now and contact us today at 1-800-NOT-GUILTY or (317) 857-0160.