Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.


In my last blog, we discussed the scene where law enforcement is banging on your door and asking to come in. Let’s assume that they have come for something other than simply a social visit or to congratulate you on being such a great citizen.

Let’s also assume that, all things being equal, you would prefer not to be part of their ongoing criminal investigation.

I am not one for giving orders, so you may wish to consider the following five items to be suggestions rather than commandments.

Rather strong suggestions:

Suggestion No.1: Thou Shall Try To Ascertain If There Is A Warrant And What It Is For

It is usually a good idea to find out if, indeed, the officers have a warrant. If they do not, then they may not have a right to bother you if you prefer they go away.

If they have a warrant ask to see it. You have a right to see it and be sure they have one.

Now, you may not to be a legal scholar and trained in deciphering a search or arrest warrant. Suffice to say, an arrest warrant gives the officers permission to look to find the suspect named in the warrant and arrest him or her. A search warrant is to allow them to search in particular areas.

The warrant should also say where officers are allowed to search. You may want to take note of that, although it doesn’t mean it is a good idea for you to physically stop them should they start looking in the areas not named in the warrant.

By knowing what kind of warrant it is, you get an idea as to what they are looking into. By asking, you also let them know, in a relatively inoffensive way, that you have some idea as to your rights.

It is important, however, to remember that if they do not have a warrant or if they seem to be going beyond what you think the warrant allows them to do, you do not get the immediate power to “watch the watchmen”. While it is important to tell the officers that you do not consent to their actions, it is most unwise to insist to the point of aggressiveness or anything else that the officers might take as questioning, or attacking, their authority.

This will be covered more in Suggestion No. 5, below.

Suggestion No. 2. Thou shalt Not Make Unnecessary Statements

Understand that anything you say to the officers, whether while they are searching your home, sitting down interviewing you or simply standing casually in the doorway seemingly chatting is making a statement .

Regardless how fascinating you feel that you are in general, law enforcement is not simply there because of such a fascination. The officers are there to gain more information for their investigation.

There may be times when officers are simply looking into something for which you are simply a witness at most. Whether you decide to aid them in their investigation is up to you and I could not advise you without knowing the circumstances. However, if you feel that making any statement could compromise you, then you may not wish to say anything without first consulting an attorney.

“Yeah, but Sam, I am a fairly smart person. I know better than to start making confessions…!”

Do you?

You would be surprised at what seemingly innocuous statements can be twisted into exculpatory statements. The officers are professionals at discovering information. Do not try to match wits in some kind of verbal chess game (again, see Suggestion No. 5, below).

Now, there is some information you may need to give. For example, you will probably need to give your name and, if you are telling them that you either do or do not give consent for the officers to enter…that you have the authority to do so.

The officers showing up at your door, particularly if they are not in uniform, are probably detectives or some other kind of investigators.

They have been at this type of thing for years. You have not.

They know exactly what they know and what they are seeking to gather evidence regarding. You do not.

I will continue with this list on my NEXT posting…tomorrow.

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