Can the Police Arrest You on Your Property in Utah?

People are supposed to be safe and secure in their homes.  This generally means that residents of Utah can keep others off their property and out of their houses, but these rules do not necessarily stop police officers.  In some situations, you can be arrested at home or while you are on your own property in Utah.  The Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyers at Overson Law explain when this is possible and what you can do to get help if you are illegally arrested at home.

When Can Police Arrest Me at Home in Utah?

For a police officer to arrest you at home, they typically must get a warrant authorizing them to do so.  When you are in your house, you are about as protected from the government as you can get: your right to privacy generally prevents police and other government entities from coming into the house, telling you what to do inside your house, or gaining access to your property or papers.  However, if police think that you were involved in a crime, they may seek authorization from a court to arrest you – even to arrest you from your house.

For a judge to authorize an arrest warrant, the officer must first demonstrate to the judge that they have “probable cause” for the arrest.  This means pointing to facts and evidence that prove it is likely that you committed the crime in question.  If the judge authorizes a warrant, the police officer can arrest you.

Sometimes, arrest warrants are restricted in terms of where the officer can arrest you.  In misdemeanor cases, the warrant might not allow the officer to show up at your house at night to arrest you, but it might authorize a daytime arrest at home.  In some cases where the element of surprise is necessary to prevent the defendant from running, destroying evidence, resisting arrest, or assaulting a police officer, a judge might authorize arrest at the defendant’s home at nighttime.  Judges also occasionally authorize “no-knock” warrants, which allow police to break down the door without knocking and announcing themselves before coming in.  Bench warrants issued by a judge for failing to appear in court usually do not allow an arrest at home.

If the warrant does not specifically authorize the officer to go to the defendant’s home and there is no additional search warrant authorizing the police to go to the house, police can still perform an arrest out in public or at the suspect’s place of work instead of going to their home.

In any case, simply being “on your property” might not stop police.  If you are outside in the yard or you have a very large piece of property that is open to the public, you can usually be arrested there.  Typically, police are only restricted from going into your house or the immediate area around it without a warrant.

Do Police Need a Warrant for a Home Arrest in Utah?

Police may be authorized to arrest you at your home with a warrant, but they typically cannot come into your house and arrest you without a warrant unless there is a good reason to do so.  In some situations, it would take too long or allow the suspect to get away, or it would cause additional harm if the police officer had to stop, go to court, get a search warrant, and come back before performing an arrest.

One of the clearest examples of this is if the officer witnesses someone committing a crime; if the officer went to court and came back, the defendant would be long gone.  Similarly, there are “exigent circumstances” that allow a police officer to enter your home and potentially arrest you there without a warrant.

Police can typically enter your home if there is some risk or need to enter the home.  Responding to an emergency situation or safety issue is an understandable reason an officer might be allowed to enter a home without a warrant.  Similarly, police can usually enter a home without a warrant if they believe that evidence is being destroyed inside (e.g., if the defendant is flushing drugs to prevent drug possession charges or burning important paperwork to stop police from proving a white-collar crime).  If a police officer comes into your house under one of these exigent circumstances and sees evidence of a crime or witnesses you committing a crime, you can be arrested on the spot – even if you were in your own house.

Police can also enter a house or other private location if they are in hot pursuit.  This usually occurs when a police officer witnesses a crime or otherwise has grounds to arrest a suspect, but the suspect flees.  If the suspect flees into a house – whether that be their house or someone else’s – the officer is usually permitted to follow them and arrest them inside the house.

Fighting Arrests in Your House in Utah

If you were arrested in your house, your defense attorney has options to argue that the entry or the arrest was illegal.  If it was, any evidence that was seized, arrests that were made, and confessions that were received based on this illegal entry should be barred from court under suppression rules.  Typically, you can only assert these arguments that the entry was illegal if police entered your house or a house where you were staying as an overnight guest.  If you were at someone else’s house or in a public location, these defenses might be unavailable.

Call Our Salt Lake City Criminal Lawyer for a Free Legal Consultation

If you were arrested at home and you think that the arrest might have been done without a warrant or probable cause, call a lawyer immediately.  Overson & Bugden’s Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyers offer free legal consultations to help defendants understand the charges against them and the potential routes to getting charges dropped and evidence blocked.  For a free legal consultation on your case, call our attorneys today at (801) 758-2287.