It’s a moment that can inspire fear and dread in anyone—including law-abiding citizens. Police officers or federal agents from the FBI can knock on your door, unannounced, at any time. They may or may not have a search or arrest warrant in hand. They could be there to search your home, make an arrest, or simply chat with you. But what should you do to protect yourself and your family in these circumstances?
As an initial matter, keep in mind that law enforcement officials are allowed to knock on your door just to ask to speak with you, a family member, or a roommate. They have no obligation to have a warrant to “chat” and question. Increasingly, law enforcement does this at very early morning hours or late at night to catch people off guard and without access to counsel. However, you are not required to speak with them, and you have legal rights that you may assert to protect yourself.
Where the FBI May Show Up
The FBI may knock on the door of your home, workplace, or a friend, relative, or neighbor’s home. Additionally, the FBI could approach you on the street. In any of these situations, you need to protect your legal rights, and you likely want to minimize any embarrassment or publicity. Below are some tips for achieving these goals.
How to Protect Your Rights When the FBI Arrives
An FBI visit is intimidating. Below are some tips that could help you in this stressful situation:
Find Out Who Is at the Door
You have the right to confirm the identities of the officers by asking to see their credentials. Additionally, you should ask for their business cards so you have a record of who paid you a visit.
Ask If They Have a Warrant
Your actions will depend on the reason the officers are there and whether they have a warrant.
If they have a search warrant, for example, you are obligated by law to allow them to search within the parameters of the warrant. You should not do anything to interfere with the search because doing so may result in a charge of obstruction of justice or similar charges.
Likewise, if they have an arrest warrant, you should not do anything to interfere with their execution of the warrant.
Do Not Allow the FBI Inside Without a Warrant
If the officers do not have a warrant and simply ask for permission to enter or search the house, you have a right to refuse entry. Voluntarily allowing officers into your home when they do not have a search or arrest warrant increases your exposure for criminal charges or investigation. For example, anything the officers observe while inside your home can be used against you even if they did not have a warrant.
Therefore, when the FBI knocks on the door, you may step outside and close the door behind you while you identify the agents and the reason they are there.
Do Not Speak to FBI Agents Without an Attorney Present
You have an absolute right to refuse to speak with the FBI, and you should always consult with a criminal defense attorney before speaking with law enforcement or consenting to a warrantless search of your home.
To assert your rights, you should clearly state that you will not answer questions and that you want to speak with a lawyer. You may repeat this as many times as necessary, but you should not say anything else.
The phrase “anything you say, can and will be used against you” applies whether or not you are under arrest.
Exercising your constitutional protections against self-incrimination and unreasonable searches do not in any way require you to be rude, aggressive, or disrespectful to the officers. Always maintain your cool while interacting with law enforcement. They are simply doing their jobs. Keeping your hands visible and avoiding sudden movements or anything that could escalate into a misunderstanding—or worse—is always critical.
If you or a loved one are approached by law enforcement, it is essential to call a trusted Fairfax criminal attorney at Greenspun Shapiro right away.
Our Criminal Defense Attorneys at Greenspun Shapiro Can Help
Have you or a loved one recently been visited by the FBI or other law enforcement officials? If so, it’s time to contact a trusted Fairfax criminal attorney.
At Greenspun Shapiro PC, we are known for our vision, experience, and imagination. Our team of Fairfax lawyers have a track record of success and excellence. We are available to discuss your legal issues with you. You can schedule a meeting with one of our Fairfax criminal defense attorneys by calling 703-352-0100 or emailing us using the contact form.