Police officers cannot just barge into your apartment without a valid reason; doing so would violate your privacy rights. However, there is a limit to your privacy, and sometimes police officers need to get into the house. Even then, they can only get in under certain conditions. Here are valid reasons that allow officers to enter your house without violating your privacy:
They Have a Warrant
In most cases, police officers will come to your place with a search warrant. This is an official document that allows the officers to get into your house with our without your consent. The conventional warrant requires officers to knock, identify themselves, and wait a short while (which can be as short as a few seconds) for you to open the door; this is known as the "knock and announce" rule. They only force their way in if you don't respond or if they believe adhering to the "knock and announce" rule may endanger lives or give you time to destroy evidence.
However, there is also a "no-knock" warrant that gives police officers the permission to enter your house without announcing their presence. This is what the officers will get if they have prior knowledge or suspicion that you may destroy evidence or endanger their lives if they announce their presence first.
You Let Them In
In most cases, if the police don't have a warrant, they will ask for your permission to get into your house. They may sound or appear menacing, but they can't force their way in unless certain exceptions (the exceptions are explained below) apply. You don't have to let them in, but it may be wise to do so if you don't have anything to hide. After all, they may just leave and come back a while later with a warrant.
Your Roommate Lets Them In
It's not just you who can let officers into your apartment; even a roommate can do so. Therefore, if police officers knock on the door of a shared apartment, they can get inside even if the person who opens the door isn't a person of interest in the potential search.
However, the police officers will only limit their search to the common areas (examples include kitchen and living room) and not your private room. For example, if you share an apartment, but have separate bedrooms, the police officers will not search your bedroom if your roommate lets them in.
There Are Exigent Circumstances
Finally, police officers can also get into your apartment if they believe there are exigent circumstances. In such cases, they don't need permission from you or your roommate, and neither do they need a warrant. Consider an example where the police are chasing an armed suspect who jumps into your apartment through the window. In such a case, waiting to get your permission or a warrant is dangerous; the police will just get in without permission.
Do you believe that police officers violated your privacy rights by getting into your house? Consult an attorney from a firm like Begley Carlin & Mandio LLP to review your case because privacy violations aren't straightforward. The use of exigent circumstances, for example, gives the police a wide range of reasons for entering your house. Your lawyer will examine the circumstances of the case and advise you accordingly.