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Can "No Trespassing" signs keep out Police?

You may wonder if "No Trespassing" signs can legally keep out police and other law enforcement officers. What if law enforcement finds something incriminating on your property after disregarding your "No Trespassing" signs? Recently, the Tennessee Supreme Court answered this question. 

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In the case of State of Tennessee v. James Robert Christensen, Jr., the Defendant was charged with several drug offenses, including the manufacture of methamphetamine. Officers had gone to his door without a warrant to see if he would speak with them. However, when the officers smelled chemicals associated with the manufacture of methamphetamine, they forced entry into the residence, found several labs, and arrested the Defendant.

The Defendant argued that because he had posted "No Trespassing" signs on his property, any evidence seized was in violation of the U.S. and Tennessee Constitutions as an unlawful search and seizure.

The Court's Holding

Not every entry onto property is a search, and the Court found that the officers were merely trying to engage in voluntary discussions with the Defendant, commonly referred to as "knock-and-talk." There is an implied consent for the public, including police officers, to be able to approach an unobstructed residence and knock on the front door. The "No Trespassing" signs did nothing to revoke this implied consent in this case. However, had the driveway onto the Defendant's property been obstructed with a gate, or some other intended obstacle, it is possible it would have been an unlawful entry.

Conclusion 

"No Trespassing" signs by themselves do not make it illegal for police to approach your residence and attempt to speak to you.

Questions?

If you have questions about supressing evidence in a criminal case, give the experienced attorneys at Saenz & Maniatis, PLLC a call at (615) 366-1211.

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