The situation: You and 75 of your closest friends or drunkest frat brothers or sorority sisters are packed into the living room of the duplex that you are renting when you here someone yell, “It’s the cops!” Many scream and bodies start scattering like roaches… What do you do? What are your rights?
If you’re at someone else’s house you have less to worry about than if it is your residence, and if you are a minor and alcohol is involved, you may receive a citation but that is cheap bongs trivial with what could happen if you run or worse yet, if you are uncooperative or fight. However, if it is your house, you are the one to maintain control of the situation and interact with the officers.
Whatever it is you are doing it is none of their business unless you allow it. I am surprised that I am even writing this, as it seems quite obvious. This means, keep the blinds closed, do not open the door and stand with it open, etc. Anything that falls within an officer’s view will allow the officer access to enter the house. The most important activity you can take is to keep the officer OUTSIDE your residence… after all, this is YOUR CASTLE.
Try to ensure that everyone knows not to open the door if the police are called. Even if an officer yells through a window or at the door for a guest to open it, the guest should come and get you. While this is an ideal goal, it is often not realistic as the substances that may make a party really “good” at the same time cause the imbibers of said substances to make poor decisions.
Ideally, you want someone to work the door and to ensure it is shut immediately after people enter or exit. Your right to protect your home from being searched is dramatically reduced if someone else lets an officer inside, where the officer may see more and more evidence and get to cover more space under the “plain-sight” rule.
Take a deep breath, calm yourself and step outside; If you know the officer is standing on the other side of the door, you might consider going out the back door and meeting the officer where he stands. You can always say that you were outside and someone told you he or she was on the porch. But, if you do go out the door the officer is standing at, immediately shut the door behind you. This is crucial and serves multiple purposes: 1) it makes it much harder for the police to enter, 2) it stops the smell of drugs and metabolized alcohol from escaping, 3) it lowers sound levels, and 4) it prohibits the police from viewing any incriminating evidence like bongs that may have been left in plain view.
Introduce yourself as the owner, renter, or whatever role you have with the property and ask the officer(s) how you can assist them. Remain calm and remember that officers exist to protect us. Treat them like you would any unexpected visitor – remember that Golden Rule? You have nothing to gain and a lot to lose by being aggressive, hostile, or a favorite “officer word” belligerent. Try to put yourself in the officer’s boots and think about what you would want to do if you responded to a call for a loud party and the host treated you rudely. You too would probably want to shut down the party!
Use the title, “Officer.” Keep in mind that officers put their lives at risk in order to make our neighborhoods safe. So treat them with the respect they deserve. Call them by their official title, “Officer [Name on Shirt],” or “Sir/Ma’am.” Some may take offense if you don’t. Officers like it when you acknowledge their authority.
Sometimes officers are nearby for another reason. An example, when I was sixteen, I was stopped and questioned about my presence in a neighborhood. The officer questioned me, insinuating that I had been doing something illegal. It turns out the officer was actually looking for someone who had toilet-papered a house and shot the front door with paint balls. The point of the story: do not assume the officers know what illegal things you are up to, even if they pretend they know.
It is possible the officer sat your door are asking about something going on in the neighborhood, but it is probably a safe bet they are there because of the noise complaint caused by your drunken friends rapping along to old M.C. Hammer. With some luck, there’s a good chance the officers will leave if you agree to turn down the music and not “make them come back….”