Federal Law Enforcement at your House with a Search Warrant?: Federal Attorney Explains your Rights
Law enforcement knocking on your door is never a pleasant experience. You might feel your heart pounding, maybe your palms are sweaty or perhaps you’re even in complete shock - why in the world are police at your door?
You do not have to allow federal law enforcement officers to search you or your home unless they have specific court orders or warrants.
If federal law enforcement comes to your home, chances are there is a serious situation going on - whether you know why they’re there or not. Even if you're not sure why law enforcement is at your door and you have “nothing to hide,” you should be very cautious and know about your rights to remain silent and your rights to an attorney.
Your rights when you encounter federal law enforcement:
- You have the right to remain silent. Whether you are stopped by federal law enforcement, FBI, immigration or state police officers - you have the right to remain silent (whether you are a U.S. citizen or not, you have this right).
- You do NOT have to identify yourself to federal law enforcement. You do not have to identify yourself to FBI agents or immigration agents. If you don’t have ID documents, you can assert your right to remain silent. (In Florida, however, you are expected to identify yourself to a Florida state police officer).
- You do NOT have to give police permission to search. Officers can only search you if they suspect you have a weapon, OR if they have a warrant. Do not resist physically, but you have the right to verbally refuse a search. We recommend that you don’t ever consent to a search.
- If ICE agents ask for your name or to ‘show your papers,’ you do not have to. It is your right to say no - regardless of the reason.
- If you’re arrested - you have the right to know why.
If you are questioned by federal law enforcement:
- Keep calm and don’t argue.
- Even if you’re completely innocent, and even if the police are violating your rights - don’t argue, stay calm.
- Ask “Am I free to leave?,” if an officer says yes, you can calmly and quietly leave.
- You have the right to remain silent and cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions. If you want to remain silent, you must tell the police or federal law enforcement officer out loud.
Does the federal law enforcement have the right to search you or your home?
If Federal law enforcement is at your home, you don’t have to let them search your home unless they have a warrant.
If federal law enforcement comes to your house with an active search warrant, they have the right to search the property that is specifically listed in the court order.
If federal law enforcement wants to search additional belongings beyond what is listed in the order, you have the right to decline the search.
If the officers say that they have a warrant or court order to search your home, you can ask them to pass it under the door or to hold it to the window for you to review.
What can a search warrant allow?
- The search warrant ONLY allows officers to search the address specifically listed on the order.
- Officers are only allowed to search for items listed in the order.
- An arrest warrant allows officers to enter the home where the person listed lives IF they believe that person is inside.
- Even with a court order or warrant, you have the right to remain silent.
Do you have the requirement to talk to the federal law enforcement when they come to your house?
NO! If federal officers or the FBI show up at your door you do NOT have to speak with them. Even if they have a warrant to search your home - you still do not need to speak to the federal officers.
Federal law enforcement officers do not have the right to force you to talk. You are only expected to identify yourself to state police officers and deputies - but not FBI agents or ICE agents.
You do not need to answer any other questions or give the federal law enforcement any additional information.
Simply inform the officer that you would like to use your right to remain silent.
What do I do if federal officers come to my house?
Warrant or not, remain silent. DO NOT consent to any kind of search or cooperation if they don’t have a warrant.
If federal officers want to speak to you or search you or your home, inform them that you would like to assert your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. Even if you have no idea why they’re at your home, and even if you know you’re innocent - do not speak to federal officers without an attorney present.
If the FBI or federal officers come to your home, contact a federal defense attorney as soon as possible. Again - whether you’re innocent or not - you could end up in trouble with the federal government quickly if you don’t protect your rights and seek legal counsel.
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