Do the Police Have to Respect No Trespassing Signs?

Posted On February 21, 2023 Arizona Laws

Putting up a no trespassing sign on your property could prevent law enforcement officers from being able to search your home. Without a search warrant, the police are no more privileged to enter private property than the general public. This means they must respect no trespassing signs, in most cases. However, if the police have a warrant to search your property, they can enter whether you have a no trespassing sign or not.

Search Warrant vs. No Search Warrant

The main issue involved in the question of whether the police have to respect a no trespassing sign is if they have a warrant. A warrant is a document issued by a government official authorizing the police to search a premises, seize potential evidence and/or make an arrest. A search warrant gives the police legal authority to search your home, vehicle, business and other property that belongs to you to look for evidence that could connect you to an alleged crime. This legal right exists whether or not you have a no trespassing sign posted on your property.

To obtain a search warrant, the police must have probable cause to suspect you of committing a crime. Law enforcement must demonstrate to a judge that there is enough evidence a crime has been committed or that you committed a crime. The warrant must be specific; it must describe the area being searched and the evidence or objects the police are searching for. Once a judge signs a warrant, the police have the right to conduct a search of private property. However, they cannot search outside of the parameters of the warrant.

If the police do not have a search warrant, a no trespassing sign could prevent them from lawfully entering your property. No search warrant means the police do not have the legal authority to enter your property without your permission to do so. If you did not give your permission, your premises was protected from the public (such as with a gate or fence), and you had a no trespassing sign posted, a law enforcement officer who enters the property is technically trespassing.

You Have a Constitutional Right to Be Secure in Your Home

You are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures by the United States Constitution. The Fourth Amendment requires police to obtain a search warrant before searching you or property that you own. Most states, including Arizona, have similar laws protecting citizens from unlawful searches. If you have revoked permission from the general public to enter your property, such as with fencing or no trespassing signs, you have a legal right to privacy. This includes privacy from law enforcement officers who do not have a search warrant.

In State of Arizona v. Cody Mitchell Lohse, a judge ruled that all evidence collected by law enforcement officers upon entering the defendant’s property without a warrant (a property that had two privacy fences and a private property sign) was inadmissible during a drug crime case. In this case, the defendant argued that the police officers were trespassing in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The court unanimously found that the officers did not have the right to enter Lohse’s property, and that the drugs and drug paraphernalia collected during the trespass could therefore not be admitted as evidence.

Speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney in Arizona

If the police did not have a warrant to search your property and you had a no trespassing sign posted or other means of showing that you were revoking the general license to enter your property, anything collected may be inadmissible as evidence during a criminal case against you in Arizona. For more information about this situation and to receive personalized legal advice, contact the criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of John Phebus. We offer free initial case consultations.