When the police don’t have enough evidence to get a search warrant, they sometimes employ a procedure they have nicknamed “knock and talk” to investigate further. Courts have ruled that a police officer has the same right as an everyday citizen (for example, a Girl Scout selling cookies) to visit your house, knock on your front door, and ask to speak with you. Unfortunately, abuses of the “knock and talk” technique are now rampant.
In one case, when no one answered the front door, the police started walking around the property knocking on back doors and side doors until they spotted some marijuana through a window in the back of the house. In 2015, the ACLU of Michigan filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Michigan Supreme Court, arguing that the police need a warrant before they roam around your back yard peering into your windows. In July 2016, however, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal without deciding the issue.
That same month we filed another friend-of-the-court brief in a similar case before the Michigan Supreme Court, arguing that a so-called “knock and talk” violates the Fourth Amendment when it is conducted in the middle of the night. In June 2017 the Michigan Supreme Court agreed with us and held that the police were trespassing, and therefore violating the Fourth Amendment, when they woke up suspects and their families in the middle of the night to interrogate them in their homes.
(People v. Radandt; People v. Frederick; People v. Van Doorne; ACLU Attorney Dan Korobkin; Cooperating Attorneys David Moran of U-M Law School and Christine Pagac; John Minock and Brad Hall of CDAM.)
Read our Fall 2018 Legal Docket.