Recent media attention on “no knock” warrants has obscured the fact that there are situations in which the NYPD can legitimately enter your house without a warrant. The New York civil rights lawyers at Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green, P.C. believe that the city’s residents are best served if they understand the circumstances when police do not need a warrant to enter a house.

It is equally important for residents to know their rights to keep the police out of their homes and to recognize situations where they have violated those rights.

What Circumstances Permit the NYPD to Enter Your House Without a Warrant?

NYPD personnel can enter your house without a warrant in two general situations:

  • When an adult person who resides in your house invites them in.
  • When there are “exigent circumstances,” specifically when the NYPD has probable cause to believe that a felony crime has been or is about to be committed. 

As for the first, any person who lives in your house is under no obligation or compulsion to invite law enforcement personnel to enter your home. If they have been invited, they may have a right to seize any evidence of a crime that is plainly visible. They are not authorized to conduct a search for any contraband that is not visible.

As for exigent circumstances, for example, a neighbor has called the police over domestic violence concerns. The police hear sounds of a violent altercation when they arrive. They can enter the house to prevent further escalation. The critical factor is whether the NYPD has probable cause to believe that a felony crime has been or is being committed.

The NYPD can also enter a house without a warrant if they have been actively pursuing a suspect who was observed committing a crime if that suspect was seen entering the house. 

What Claims Do You have if NYPD Personnel Improperly Enter Your House Without a Warrant?

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures. If personnel from the NYPD enters your house without a proper warrant, then any evidence they seize likely cannot be used against you. A knowledgeable and experienced civil rights lawyer will move to strike the admission of that evidence because it is “fruit of a poisonous tree,” namely, an illegal search.

Further, that attorney will use the illegal entry and search as a basis for a lawsuit under Section 1983 of the U.S. Civil Rights Act. This authorizes lawsuits by parties whose Constitutional rights have been denied under color of federal or state law.  You would not have a valid Section 1983 claim if you or some other person who lives in your house invited the NYPD to enter it.

 Who Can You Sue for a Section 1983 Warrantless Home Entry Violation?

In addition to suing the NYPD, you may have claims against the individual NYPD personnel who entered your house improperly, and against the supervisors who directed or consented to the entry. Further, if they subjected you to excessive force, you may have additional claims against them for mental distress and other causes of action.

In every case, you should contact a New York City civil rights lawyer as soon as is possible after an illegal entry. You should also photograph any damage that the NYPD may have caused as a consequence of that entry. Finally, you should preserve all hospital and other medical records if you suffered any physical injuries.

The NYPD has adopted changes to law enforcement practices

The New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board recorded more than 500 reports of illegal or improper NYPD entries into houses between 2010 and 2015. The NYPD has adopted changes to law enforcement practices that led to improper house entries, and significant nationwide efforts are underway for blanket reforms of police practices. Regardless, warrantless entries in New York City continue to occur.

Call Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green, P.C. If NYPD Personnel have Entered Your House Without a Warrant

If any member of the NYPD has come into your home without being invited and without probable cause, please see our website or contact the Manhattan law firm of Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green, P.C.

Our civil rights attorneys will review the facts of your situation at no cost or expense to you to determine if you have a legitimate reason to file a lawsuit for violation of your civil rights and other breaches of conduct. We believe that holding law enforcement authorities to a high standard of conduct benefits everyone.