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Police in Florida Cannot Search House Based on Anonymous Tip in High Crime Area

The Constitutional right to privacy prevents the police from entering a person’s home to search for drugs or other evidence except in certain circumstances. If the police have a valid search warrant or someone with authorization gives the police consent to enter and search the house, that is one thing, but without one of those two circumstances, it is rare for the police to have authority to enter someone’s home.

In a recent marijuana case near Jacksonville, Florida the police received an anonymous tip that the defendant was in his home and engaged in some type of drug activity. An anonymous tip is practically never going to be a valid reason for the police to search a person’s home. Understanding that, the police decided to walk up to the house, knock on the door and see what happens. The police are usually allowed to go to a suspect’s house, knock on the door and see if someone inside will open the door and talk to them. If the police see or smell drugs or the person who opens the door gives them consent to enter, then the police can likely move forward with a drug investigation. The other side of that is a person is free to ignore the police if they come knocking on the door.

In this case, the police knocked on the door. The defendant stepped out of a side entrance, saw the police and ran back inside. Based on that, the police searched the house, found marijuana inside and arrested the defendant for possession of marijuana.

The criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the marijuana because this was an illegal search. The police are free to walk up to a person’s home (as long as there is free access to the front door) and knock on the door. However, the occupants are free to ignore the police and even walk outside, see the police and go back in. This is true in an expensive neighborhood or a high crime neighborhood. Without specific evidence of criminal activity, if the occupants decide they do not want to talk to the police, the police cannot respond by entering the house.