Can Police Enter a House after a Noise Complaint in NJ?


New Brunswick Noise Complaint Criminal Charge Attorneys

House parties are popular throughout New Jersey, especially in New Brunswick in the houses on and around Rutgers University Campus. As we all know, if they run late, they tend to anger neighbors who may have work the next morning or simply don’t like a bunch of people making noise next door. If you’ve recently hosted a party that didn’t break up until the sun started coming up, you may already be aware that police can show up on your doorstep if you’re not careful. Obviously, police can knock on your door to ask you to lower the volume or take the party indoors. But can they come inside? Here’s what you need to do about when and why police can actually enter and search your house when responding to a noise complaint. If you have been arrested after police responded to a neighbor complaining about the loudness of a party, our criminal defense lawyers serving New Brunswick and all of Middlesex County can help. Contact us today at (732) 659-9600 or reach us online for a free consultation about your situation.

When Officers can Come Inside Your House after a Noise Complaint in New Jersey

Getting Consent to Enter

Generally speaking, police cannot enter or search a person’s home without a warrant. Whether in response to a noise complaint or for other reasons, the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures” executed by law enforcement and other state officers. There are, however, several exceptions to this prohibition on warrantless searches, and one of the primary exceptions is consent.

If officers show up at your door after your neighbor calls in a noise complaint and you answer, officers can ask you whether you live at the residence and whether they can come inside. If you say yes, and if they then enter your home or apartment and find evidence of a crime, you likely cannot challenge their entry into you home because you gave them consent. This can lead to serious charges for drugsweapons, and other items like stolen property.

Similarly, officers may arrive at your door and your roommate, girlfriend, boyfriend, or spouse may answer it. In that situation, the police will likely ask them if they live at the residence and if they will consent to the police going inside. If the person says yes, generally speaking, the police may legally enter the home or apartment and conduct a search.
If, however, your roommate states that the police can come in and you object, saying that you do not want them to come in without a warrant, the situation can get more complicated. In that instance, a court reviewing the search may state that the police had consent to search your roommate’s areas of the residence but not to search your room or other areas of the residence that you controlled. Given this potential complication, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are involved in a situation where different occupants gave police conflicting answers about whether they could conduct a search.

Community Caretaker / Exigent Circumstances Home Search

Police often arrive at a home in response to a noise complaint and encounter an ongoing emergency situation, not just a loud argument or noisy house party. Through another exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement, police are permitted to enter and search a home if they are fulfilling what is called a “community caretaking” function. For example, if police hear screaming or groaning coming from inside the house indicating that someone is hurt or dying inside, if they see signs of a fire and begin sweeping the home to make sure that no one is trapped inside, or if they otherwise find evidence of an emergency and reasonably determine that they may need to enter the residence to help someone, they can come inside without a warrant. This is common is domestic violence cases where police receive a report about a potential domestic dispute and respond to the scene.

Police may also potentially enter a residence without a warrant in situations where it is obvious that you are destroying evidence, concealing a crime, or helping a criminal suspect evade arrest. These situations provide the police with “exigent circumstances” that make it unreasonable or impossible for them to go to court and get a warrant. Entry and searches under these circumstances will often be upheld in court, even if police did not have a warrant to enter your home or apartment.

Probable Cause of a Crime or Evidence in a Rutgers House

Police can also enter and search a home if they have probable cause to believe that criminal activity is occurring inside and if they obtain a search warrant from a judge or magistrate based on that probable cause. Police are unlikely to take this approach in response to a simple noise complaint. With that said, if after a first visit police develop probable cause to suspect criminal activity but lack exigent circumstances or consent to justify a warrantless search of a residence, they may fill out a sworn affidavit detailing what they believe is occurring in a house, go to a magistrate, obtain a search warrant, and return to search the home.

If police have a duly authorized search warrant, they are permitted to enter the home and carry out a search consistent with the scope of that warrant. This often occurs when they believe someone is dealing drugs inside a house, also known as a drug raid. In other scenarios, they may believe you are growing marijuana or manufacturing drugs inside, which can lead to serious charges for maintaining a CDS production facility.

Arrested after a Noise Complaint in New Brunswick, NJ?

Regardless of the situation, it is highly advisable to talk to a lawyer about your specific case if you have been charged with a crime after a noise complaint in New Brunswick, near Rutgers, or anywhere else in Middlesex County or New Jersey. You will need someone who understands the law who can examine your case, understand how the search happened, and find the best defenses. Call (732) 659-9600 now to speak with an experienced defense lawyer free of charge.

With more than a decade of experience defending clients against criminal charges, founding partner William A. Proetta has successfully handled and tried thousands of cases, from DWI to murder. As a New Jersey native, he has focused his career on helping people in the area where he grew up, serving Middlesex, Ocean, Hudson, and Union counties.