Can Law Enforcement Enter Someone Else’s Property to Arrest a Suspect?

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Sometimes a law enforcement officer may arrest a person in the property of another person. However, when this occurs, there must usually be additional steps that are followed for law enforcement to execute the arrest in a legal manner. Suspects should understand how being arrested in a third party’s residence may impact their civil liberties.

Public Arrest

Law enforcement can typically arrest a person who is in public without having to take additional steps to secure this arrest. In some situations, an open doorway may be considered being in public and allow the law enforcement officer to arrest the suspect.

Arrest Warrant

If law enforcement wants to arrest someone in their home, they must usually secure an arrest warrant to arrest the person in his or her own home. Most jurisdictions require that law enforcement have a reasonable belief that the location where they plan to arrest the suspect is his or her own residence and that the suspect will be at the residence at the time that they plan to enter. Reasonable belief is based on the totality of the facts and circumstances within the knowledge of the law enforcement officers. Reason to believe that a person lives somewhere may include that the lease or utilities are in the suspect’s name, witnesses have stated that the address is where the suspect lives or the suspect has listed the address as his or her residence. Determining whether the suspect is likely to be at the residence at the time of the arrest. Law enforcement may use a variety of considerations to make a reasoned analysis that a suspect is likely to be at the location at the time of executing the warrant. For example, they may inquire into the suspect’s work and what time he or she routinely is working. They may also investigate what type of vehicle a suspect drives and look to make sure that vehicle is at the residence at the time of the proposed time to execute the warrant.

Some jurisdictions require a higher standard when obtaining an arrest warrant. In these jurisdictions, probable cause may be required to obtain an arrest warrant.

Arrest warrants can usually allow a law enforcement officer to enter a residence to arrest a suspect believed to have committed a felony or a misdemeanor. Arrest warrants may result after a person is suspected of a misdemeanor and fails to appear as required in criminal court. The judge may issue a bench warrant that instructs law enforcement to arrest a person for a suspected commission of a crime. An arrest warrant provides the limited authority for a law enforcement officer to enter a dwelling.

Arrest Warrants and Third Parties

Arrest warrants allow a law enforcement officer to enter a residence in order to arrest a suspect for a crime. However, an arrest warrant does not typically provide law enforcement with the right to enter the residence of a third party. However, there are important exceptions.

Search Warrant

If a law enforcement officer wants to enter the residence of a third party where he or she suspects that a suspect is but where the suspect does not live, law enforcement must usually obtain a search warrant. A search warrant requires law enforcement to establish probable cause that someone or something is likely in the location specified and that such evidence or person is necessary to seize in the interest of justice.

Exigent Circumstances

One exception to the requirement to secure a search warrant is if exigent circumstances exist. In these situations, law enforcement officers may be able to enter a residence due to an emergency and may not have to follow the warrant requirements.


Another exception to the requirement to secure a search warrant is if the owner of the residence consents for law enforcement officers to come into the residence.

Retreat back into the Residence

If law enforcement is in the process of arresting someone in public, including someone who is in the open doorway of a house and the law enforcement officer attempts to arrest the suspect, law enforcement can usually enter the residence to finish the attempt. This set of actions typically falls under the hot pursuit exception to requiring an arrest warrant.

Legal Assistance

If you are suspected of criminal behavior and believe that your arrest was not valid or did not follow the rules of your jurisdiction, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer for assistance.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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