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Knock and Talks

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 75 Issue: 8 Dated: August 2006 Pages: 22-32
Jayme W. Holcomb J.D.
Date Published
August 2006
11 pages
This article explores the legal issues associated with the police technique of “knock and talks,” which is a noncustodial police encounter with a citizen at their residence.
Knock and talks involve police officers knocking on a residence door and asking to speak with the occupants. Officers may also ask permission to search the residence. This technique is practiced in the absence of an arrest or search warrant and is considered a consensual encounter between police and citizens. This practice can be lawful, yet carries a great risk for abuse. Officers are cautioned that if illegal activity is suspected, it is always preferable to investigate for reasonable cause and obtain a search warrant. The author addresses the general rule for knock and talks before delving into the legal aspects of approaching a residence and its occupants without a warrant. Knock and talks are examined for their potential to violate the fourth amendment rights of citizens to “be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” However, Federal and State courts have ruled that knock and talks do not violate fourth amendment rights if they are conducted properly. The legal aspects of particular components of the knock and talk are explored, including how the home is approached by officers, the way the knock on the door sounds, the time of day, the duration of the encounter, and the number of officers present. Generally, courts examine every aspect of a knock and talk for any hint that the reasonable person would not feel free to decline the officers’ requests. Several court cases are described to illustrate the main legal questions involved in police initiated knock and talks. Endnotes