No Reason Needed For Police to Ask to Enter Home

Police do not need a valid reason to ask someone if they can enter a home and unless a warrant is served, homeowners do not need to comply with the request.

Respect but protect

Photo by: West Midlands Police

Many Utah residents acknowledge police officers as being authority figures who can often be seen as intimidating. When an officer knocks on someone’s door, the first reaction a resident may have is to comply completely with anything the officer asks of them. They may think that anything other than complete submission is a sign of guilt. This can lead to a resident waiving his Fourth Amendment rights.

Knock and talk

In order for police officers to enter a home without permission, they need to have a legal warrant or reasonable grounds to do so. With a warrant in hand, police have the right to enter and search any areas outlined in the warrant. If officers do not have a warrant and have no valid reason to enter a home, they are still allowed to knock on the door, just like anybody else can. This is known as a simple “knock and talk”.

Permission not granted

During a “friendly” knock and talk, the homeowner has the option to:

• Talk to officers through the closed door;
• Open the door and answer questions at the door;
• Go outside to speak to officers on the porch; or
• Invite officers inside the residence to talk.

Unfortunately with nervousness and intimidation at work, the majority of people will be overly agreeable and give officers permission to enter their home. Once this is done, that resident has forfeited the protection given them under the Fourth Amendment. Utah residents are encouraged to keep calm when police come knocking and to be respectful while also protecting their rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. If permission is not given and officers enter and search the home anyway, any evidence could be no admissible in court. It is best to consult with an attorney regarding these matters.

The Eighth Amendment and the Death Penalty

If the people are protected against cruel and unusual punishments, where does the death penalty come in?

Eighth Amendment

Photo by: World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution states: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” No one convicted of a crime should face punishments that are considered severe or unfair. Being sentenced to death seems to be the grimmest and harshest sentence possible though, so why is it permissible under the protection of the Eighth Amendment?

Death penalty

In the early 1970’s the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty to be in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Within a few short years however, during the case of Gregg V. Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled by a wide majority that the death penalty under new statutes were no longer unconstitutional. Under the new guidelines, the trials of someone facing the death penalty must be a two part, with the first determining guilt or innocence and if found guilty, the second step to decide prison or death.

Is Utah pro-death penalty?

Photo by: Humphrey King

The state of Utah wasted no time in welcoming the death penalty back. In fact, Utah was one of the first states to begin perform an execution after the nationwide overhaul of capital punishment. Utah is also the only state to still have the questionable firing squad as an option of carrying out the death penalty when unable to “obtain the substance or substances necessary to conduct an execution by lethal intravenous injection” according to Utah Code 77-18-5.5. Many death penalty activists in Utah are currently fighting to cease the death penalty in Utah on the next legislative session. While many claim it is truly unconstitutional to take the life of another person under law, others admit the death penalty with the cost of the continuous appeals is just too expensive to support.

Capital felonies

Until Utah lawmakers decide to abolish the death penalty, Utah Code 76-3-206 states: “A person who has pled guilty to or been convicted of a capital felony [such as murder] shall be sentenced in accordance with this section [and if the person] was 18 years of age or older at the time the offense was committed, the sentence shall be:

(i) An indeterminate prison term of not less than 25 years and that may be for life; or
(ii) On or after April 27, 1992, life in prison without parole”;
(iii) [or the ultimate punishment,]  Death”.

Invoking Fifth Amendment Rights Involves Speaking After All

Prior to an arrest, the arrestee is read their Miranda rights which state they have the right to remain silent; however invoking their Fifth Amendment Rights prior to an arrest may actually involve speaking after all.

Cooperate without self-incrimination

Photo by: Cristian V.

When an individual is facing legal trouble, it is common for that person to either:

• Cooperate and communicate fully with law enforcement, often offering more information than they should, or
• Clam up, refusing to say a word because they have the “right to remain silent”, right?

Unfortunately, there is a fine line that persons facing arrest must tread between cooperating with police and protecting their Fifth Amendment Rights against self-incrimination. Although everyone has the right to remain silent, that doesn’t always mean it’s the best choice to be a stone wall. Complete silence could be seen as insubordination or even guilt. So when should a person remain silent and how can they do so without causing rifts with law enforcement?

Miranda Warning

The Miranda Warning is given to everyone prior to arrest and acknowledges the arrestee’s right to remain silent and to obtain counsel before being questioned. Once the Miranda Warning is read, it is wise to keep quiet until legal counsel is there to assist in the interrogation. What about the sometimes lengthy time before being arrested? What if an individual isn’t actually being arrested, just questioned?

Questioning or interrogation

If an individual is facing questioning from law enforcement without an attorney present and they feel wary about answering any questions, they can politely ask police if they are being arrested or if they are free to go. If they are not being arrested, then they have no legal obligation to stay and answer questions from officers on scene. If officers state that they are being arrested or detained, that is when the individuals should have the Miranda Warning read to them. If the questions persist without a warning given, the arrestee should then invoke their right to remain silent, by verbally informing officers they:

• Are invoking their Fifth Amendment Rights (or Miranda Rights);
• Wish to remain silent; or
• Would like their attorney present.

According to the United States Supreme Court in Davis v. United States, “If the suspect invokes that right at any time, the police must immediately cease questioning him until an attorney is present.” Once a person has invoked their Fifth Amendment Right to remain silent, they are encouraged to contact a reputable criminal defense attorney to be present in all future interrogations.