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Do you have the right to refuse warrantless searches?

Maryland residents can avoid arrest on drug charges in some cases. At least, by exercising their rights under the law, they can limit warrantless police access to their home and property.

However, to exercise your rights, you must first understand what they are -- and their limitations. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), this is what every individual in the United States should know about their rights during searches by police.

Can the police search my house?

If they have a warrant, they can. Let's say the police have a warrant to search for your cousin, who's a felon. That means that they can look in any place where a human being could conceivably hide. If, during the search they open a desk drawer and discover cocaine inside, you could argue that the search was improper, as your cousin could not hide in a desk drawer.

Police can search without a warrant only if you or another resident give them consent.

When the police are at the door

In that case, the next seconds and minutes are crucial for your future freedom. Don't immediately open the door. Instead, ask if they have a warrant. If the answer is yes, ask to see it to make sure that they are indeed at the right place looking for the correct suspect.

If you feel compelled by law enforcement officers to step outside, close and lock the door behind you while you determine whether they have the right to search your home.

Absent a warrant, it's likely the police will pepper you with questions immediately. Be smart and don't respond. The police may seek and obtain a warrant at that point to search the premises. However, it's likely that the matter will end there. Your next move should be to call your Maryland criminal defense attorney for advice on how to proceed.

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