In Pensacola and Florida, as well as throughout the entire country, we often hear stories in the news media about people’s homes being searched by law enforcement who discover all types of incriminating evidence. The majority of these stories, but certainly not all, involve the seizure of narcotics.
As we heard heard in Glenn Frey’s 1985 hit song Smuggler’s Blues: “I’m sorry it went down like this, someone had to lose, It’s the nature of the business, it’s the smuggler’s blues,” sooner or later, someone who chooses to distribute or sell narcotics is going to lose – it’s the nature of the business, they will be arrested and face, in most cases, a lengthy time in prison.
We have all heard “a man’s home is his castle.” In 1644, English jurist Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634) was quoted as saying: ‘For a man’s house is his castle, et domus sua cuique tutissimum refugium’ (‘One’s home is the safest refuge for all’). However, there are exceptions to when a man or woman’s “castle doors” can be knocked down by the police, entered and searched without the permission of the owner of the castle.
In order to enter your home to begin a search, the police must either have the citizen’s “consent” or have probable cause to believe that the home contains evidence of a crime in order to obtain a warrant to search your home from “a neutral and detached magistrate judge.” (There are a few exceptions). Some officers know which judges are more inclined to issue a warrant than other judges when they make application for a warrant.
Often times when people are faced with police knocking asking at their door requesting they be allowed in, a surprisingly large percentage of people acquiesce and allow them in for fear if they refuse they may be bringing suspicion upon themselves or avoiding the inevitable – the police will come in anyway. However, a citizen has an absolute right not to allow law enforcement into their home if they do not have a warrant under most circumstances.
Probable cause to search for narcotics or drugs serving as a basis for a warrant is usually obtained in several manners. One, the police may obtain intelligence information from cooperating witnesses or informants who tell them there are drug transactions occurring within a citizen’s home. Some informants have provided information in the past that has been corroborated by the police in a later search that revealed the drugs the “reliable informant” told them about. A “reliable informant’s” information is considered more credible and trustworthy because of the fact they have provided reliable information in the past. However, if the informant is not a “reliable informant” used in the past, the police must have more information to corroborate or support the information provided by a citizen or an informant to obtain a search warrant. The police need additional “probable cause.”