The police are at my house with a warrant, what are my rights? Task
The police have powers to enter and search your home. Usually, this requires a warrant, but there are some instances where the police can enter your home without a warrant.
A warrant usually gives the police the power to enter your house for one occasion only. Sometimes a magistrate will issue a warrant for multiple entries and searches. However, after the first entry, any further entries need to be approved by an officer of the rank of Inspector who is not involved in the investigation.
Searches must be made at “a reasonable hour” unless this might “frustrate the purpose of the search”. However, this still generally means dawn raids are common and considered reasonable.
If the police raid your home, you should always seek legal assistance from a solicitor.
What documents must the police show before raiding my home?
If evidence could be destroyed or if the police are carrying out an arrest and the person might escape, the police do not need to show a warrant before entering a property.
However, if they have a warrant, the police must show it to you “as soon as practicable”. This is usually after they have secured the property and gathered everyone in one room. You have a right to a copy of the warrant.
You should also check to see:
- If the warrant is for the correct address
- Why the warrant was issued – whether it is to search for drugs, stolen property or to arrest someone
- If someone named in an arrest warrant no longer lives at your address, explaining this to the police should help to quickly end any search
- When was it issued – any entry and search must be within three months from the date that the warrant was issued
You also have a right to a Notice of Rights and Powers. This sets out the police powers and your rights. You are also entitled to see a police officer’s warrant card as a means of identification if they are not in uniform.
If the police have a warrant, can the police search people too?
Unless it is mentioned specifically in the warrant, warrants do not allow police officers to search people in your property, only the property itself. However, the police may be able to search you using other powers, particularly if you are under arrest.
You should always ask the police to justify why a search is required.
Can the police raid a shared house?
If you live in rented accommodation, the police should not search the premises solely on the basis of your landlord’s consent. However, they can get consent from someone else who can allow them to enter, such as a housemate or family member.
If the police have come to arrest you or are conducting a search after your arrest, they do not require consent but are only permitted to search areas that are reasonably required to find any evidence. This generally means a person’s room but may include shared or communal spaces.
Can I film the police while they raid my home?
You are allowed to film the police while they search your home, as long as you don’t obstruct them.
Even if they threaten to take your camera (seize it), the police are not allowed to do so unless they believe it contains evidence of an offence.
Do I have to answer questions while my home is raided by police?
If you are arrested and cautioned during a police raid, you don’t have to answer questions and should not do so without first seeking legal advice.
If you are not arrested, the police may only in theory ask questions that are necessary to carry out a search, such as to find a key to open a locked drawer or cupboard, or to decide if a particular item should be seized.
You don’t have to answer the questions, but this may lead the police to cause greater damage to your property during the search.
In reality, the police often ask you questions, even if you are not under arrest and have not been cautioned. You do not need to respond to these questions and should always refuse to do so.
Can the police seize my things or cash?
Police have wide powers to seize property if they have reasonable grounds for believing that:
- The items have been obtained illegally, or
- They are evidence in relation to a crime
In either of these cases, the police should also have reason to believe that they need to seize the items to prevent them from being lost, stolen or destroyed.
The police can seize property and retain it for examination elsewhere. This is often the reason for seizing computer equipment.
The police can seize money in certain cases, for example, as evidence of a potential offence or if there is reason to believe it was obtained illegally.
However, the police can also seize cash over a minimum value of £1000. For example, if they believe you have the cash as a result of a crime (such as the sale of stolen property) or intended to use it for criminal purposes. If the police find cash in different parts of the same home, this minimum value applies to the total amount of cash found.
It is important to ask the police what powers they are using to seize cash.
The police should allow you to witness a cash seizure. If you are there, they should ask you to sign the bag in which the cash is sealed.
What documents must the police show before leaving my home?
If the search was carried out under a warrant, when the search is finished the warrant should show:
- If they found the things or people set out in the warrant
- If anything else was seized
- The date and time of the search
- The names of the officers who carried out the search (except if the investigation is linked to terrorism – when warrant numbers and duty stations should be shown)
- If a copy of the warrant, together with a Notice of Rights and Powers, was given to the occupier or left at the premises
You have a right to get a copy of the warrant, which should be returned to the Magistrates’ Court within twelve months.
Who is responsible for any repairs as a result of the raid?
Damage can occur to the house during a raid – such as a broken front door caused by forced entry. If the entry was lawful and the force used was reasonable, proportionate and necessary, it is unlikely that you will receive compensation for this.
This means you are responsible for any repairs needed.
If you are a tenant, this is likely to mean that your landlord will try to take the costs from your deposit or from you directly.
What happens if my home now isn’t secure as a result of the raid?
If your home has been entered by force, before the police leave, the officer in charge of the search must make sure your home is secure by:
- Arranging for someone to be present (a police officer or someone you know)
- Any other appropriate means
In practice, this means the police are only likely to accept responsibility for temporarily securing your home if no one is present at the time of the raid.
Can I get a receipt for items/cash that were seized during the raid?
If you request it, the police must provide a record of seized items “within a reasonable time”.
What can I do if the police seize cash during a raid?
There will be a court hearing within 48 hours, as seized cash may not be kept by the police for longer than 48 hours (excluding weekends and bank holidays). An exception is when a Magistrate is satisfied there are reasonable grounds for keeping the cash such as investigating its origin or if it is related to criminal charges.
You can ask the Magistrates’ Court to release the cash. However, the police are likely to ask the Magistrate to allow them to keep the money until they can investigate it further. This could be for up to three months. The police can then make further applications to keep the cash for up to a maximum of two years.
Legal aid may be available as you will require a civil lawyer.
What if the police raided the wrong address?
The police may sometimes raid a property simply because it is the ‘last known address of a suspect if they have reasonable grounds.
If the wrong address is searched by mistake, everything possible will be done at the earliest opportunity to correct any issues. There should be a strong case in favour of paying compensation.
If your home is wrongly searched, you should seek legal advice about compensation from a civil lawyer.