Can you open up a security door during a knock and talk?
The officer is asking this question regarding a knock and talk. They don’t have a warrant, they don’t have exigency, they just want to do a knock and talk. Well, they approach the home, and the home has one of those security doors. It’s that type of security door that has the mesh, where you can’t see the person inside, from the outside looking in. It’s almost like a window tint in effect.
So it has that mesh, and the officer wants to know, “Can we open up the security door and, knock on the actual door, and so forth, so that we don’t have that security door as a visual barrier between us and them? It’s not so that we can search; our intent is simply to see them without that barrier. Would that violate the Fourth Amendment?”
Well, the answer is “Probably not.” I think we’re going to be okay here.
So let’s look at the rules of knock and talk. This is basically talking about Florida v.Jardines. That’s a very significant US Supreme Court case. The knock and talk exception resembles to some degree, the exception for consensual searches.
There’s consent here and this kind of goes around the Fourth Amendment requirements. The relevant consent, in a knock and talk case, is implied from the custom of treating the knocker on the front door as an invitation to approach the home and knock.
We know what the limits are during a knock and talk from customs and social graces. Do you believe that it would be socially acceptable to go to a house at two o’clock in the afternoon, six o’clock at night, (but probably not two o’clock in the morning), open up the security door, knock on the door, and see if the person answers the door and wants to talk to you? Probably.
Now, what if the security door is locked? Well, there’s your indication that they don’t want you opening up the door. If you find that it’s locked and you as a police officer, are concerned or uncomfortable with continuing to knock on that door, then turn around and leave.
But if they left the door unlocked, that is part of the custom or the social graces that it seems to be okay for you to open up that security door, and to knock inside.
Now, you can obviously go too far with this. How many times have you been to a house where the security door is closed, but the front door is open and you can see inside the house? I personally do not believe under most circumstances that it would be appropriate or compliant with society expectations, to open up that security door in that instance, because that is their door, right?
But we’re talking about the security door and the other interior door. I think it’s okay if you open up the security door and knock. If they answer the interior door and they tell you, “Hey, I don’t want my security door open,” then you close it and you either leave or you continue talking from the other side, whichever you feel is more comfortable for you.
There’s your answer. I hope that this has helped you get it right every single time. Keep these questions coming and stay safe!