February 13, 2016

What to do During a Police “Knock and Talk”

Esteemed criminal defense and civil rights lawyer Bill Buckman offers up another reasons to be wary of speaking to the police, particularly if suspected of growing marijuana:

Here in NJ, police euphemistically call one of their marijuana related operations a “knock and talk”, though it can often be anything but. When police suspect that marijuana may be grown in a household, they organize multiple agencies to “respond” on a predetermined date and time to the location – a show of force. (Indeed during cross examination police have conceded that a “ knock and talk” is organized just as a forcible search warrant raid would be.)

It usually goes down like this: Police have only a mere suspicion that folks are growing marijuana in their homes. Maybe they have been tipped off by informants at a growing supply store (which, of course, sell an entire range of legal articles) or maybe the police have done an illegal drive-by thermal imaging of a house to see if heat from some kind of grow situation exists.

(As an aside, its illegal for police to do a thermal imaging scan of a home without a warrant. But if they do perform one and then intimidate the owners to “consent to a search,” the illegality often goes by the wayside, as the law will see the consent as “ curing” the illegality.)

In any event, for the “ knock and talk,” police show up in force. Some go to each entry or exit of the residence. (Query if its just a knock and talk, by virtue of what right would cops have to stop anyone from leaving the house and refusing to talk. None, really). Yet too often faced with intentional, intimidating show of force, people often “consent” to let police in their homes. At that point, cops usually talk the occupants into signing a “consent to search form” by misleading them. Once signed, the form will allow police to search all areas of the residence and every nook and cranny, totally tossing the contents about if the police wish.

The best advice to deal with a “knock and talk” is to simply not open the door and certainly not to allow police the consent to search the home. When speaking with police, one should be extremely hesitant to sign anything, like a consent from, without a lawyer present. Since police have no search warrant when conducting a knock and talk, it is not necessary to open the door. One could speak through the door if he or she wishes. Stories are legion about how, once inside the house, police allege that they smell marijuana and can then get an actual warrant.

The “knock and talk” is a bit of NJ legal schizophrenia. Because of proven abuses with racial profiling, police need a reasonable basis to even ask to search a car. But, our Supreme Court has reasoned, the home was not the site of such abuses – despite the inherently intimidating and abusive nature of the “knock and talk.”

Lastly, it bears repeating that purchasers of growing equipment, even online, have been regularly subjected to “knock and talks.” In fact, to help shed light on the issue, it would be helpful to start gathering details of “knock and talks” that netted nothing other than legal indoor growing materials.


Bill Buckman is hailed as one of the most skillful, tenacious and dedicated criminal-defense attorneys in New Jersey. He is also a seasoned civil rights lawyer with a comprehensive list of successful cases that have received nationwide attention. Mr. Buckman has kept a constant focus on the relationship between the individual and large organizations, particularly government. To find out more about Mr. Buckman or his services in and around Moorestown, New Jersey, please visit his website.


  1. Stephanie says:

    So if you just dont answer they will just leave? I find that hard to believe. If you speak to them through the door and refuse to open the door, what do you give as your reason/right to refuse?


  2. Beth Mann says:

    You don’t need to give them a reason; it’s your right. As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t allow a cop into your home, even if you have nothing to worry about. Someone could have visited your home and planted something there. A cop could enter your home and find reason to search further or substantiate the need for a search warrant. You are opening up the possibilities for a full-fledged search by allowing police into your home. Here’s a video that explains searches in better detail:


    (This is Beth responding by the way, not Bill Buckman. I’ve researched this topic previously.)


  3. Scott Smith says:

    You don’t have to give them a reason and the right to refuse a search is covered by the 4th amendment of the United States Constitution.
    Refusal of a search is not probable cause either.


  4. JC says:

    If they’re allowed to open your door, they will. Police generally only ask permission to do things they are not allowed to do, and you are not “interfering” or “resisting” by passively not opening a door. (IANAL)


  5. KatS says:

    If there is no warrant you don’t need a reason to refuse; it is your right to refuse, period.


  6. me says:

    exactly what Beth said.


  7. Eric says:

    Years ago I was a knock and talk survivor. They came with a cockamamy story about a package they intercepted in the mail with my phone number on it. I knew for a fact that I’d never sent such a package, so I asked for the warrant. “The Warrant is on the way” is a favorite line, and “If you just sign this, let us search around we’ll go easy on you but if we have to wait, you’re going to jail.” I was 23 years old and scared out of my mind, but still refused to let them in without a warrant. They spent an hour inventing ideas and trying to peek their heads in the door. I realized during this hour that I was dealing with 2 of the stupidest human beings I’d ever encountered and that made me calm. Their last trick was to pretend to be talking on a cell phone (there is no cell reception here) and said “that’s it, the judge is sending the warrant this is your last chance”

    “That’s funny your phone works here because no one else’s does…” Was all it took to send them packing. Even though they had the combined intelligence of a potted cactus, they followed their training well and tried to get in based on fear and intimidation. “Honest people would let us search because they having nothing to hide” is another line they use. At that point I was younger and dumber and decided to argue the point based on the bill of rights and that the burden of proof is on the state and blah blah blah, but if it happened today, I’d tell them “No you’re not searching anything, please get off my property” End of story.


  8. Big Daddy says:

    Opening the door isn’t so bad, unless the house reaks of marijuana smell.The main thing is: DO NOT LET THEM INTO YOUR HOUSE!. Here is what I recommend… Have your house keys in your pocket. Step outside the door and lock it behind you. Now they have to break into the house in order to gain access; something they can’t do without it being thrown out of court. Then confront the lead officer head on. “What can I do for you?” If he makes any statements concerning growing weed(or any other offense), adamently deny it. If he asks for access to your house, deny it. This might be a typical conversation between officer and homeowner:

    Homeowner: “Afternoon officer, how can I help you?”

    Officer: “Are you John Johnson?”

    Homeowner: “Yes sir”

    Officer: “Mr. Johnson, we have reason to believe you have a marijuana growing operation in your home.”

    Homeowner: “That’s bullshit. Where would you get an idea like that?” Turning the converation around so that YOU are asking the questions can put them off of there routine.

    Officer: “We have our sources, Mr. Johnson. We need to search your residence now.”

    Homeowner: “Do you have a warrant?”

    Officer: “Why would you ask me that?” He’s trying to turn the conversation back around now to his advantage. Don’t let him.

    Homeowner: “Officer, you are not searching my home without a warrent. Now I’d appreciate it you would leave my property immediately.” This would be a good time to make a move toward your vehicle. One or more officers may try to stand in your way.

    Officer: “Where are you going?”

    Homeowner: “That’s none of your business. It’s a free country, I can come and go as I please. I have someplace I have to be. Now I’m just gonna tell you one more time. Get off of my property, and don’t come back without a warrent. If you do, I will sue your department for harrasment. Have a nice day, Officer.”

    At this point, the officers should leave without any further incident. If they persist, you are probably dealing with a rogue unit that doesn’t care about procedure, and at that point anything could happen. Know your rights. Don’t be intimidated. Stand your ground. Good luck.


  9. mark says:

    The 4th amendment. Prohibiting illeagal searches and therefore seizures.


  10. Whether they leave or not its certainly best that you not be the one “consenting ” to the entry into your home. And with nothing to go on they may threaten to come back with a warrant, but they might very well not have enough for one. Why be the one to do their job.


  11. Randall H. Trantham says:

    I appreciate this site and the comments. I unfortunately did not survive a knock and talk; I was pulled from my home at gunpoint. Why such confidence by the police? They had just sent my son into my house wearing a wire. That, friends, is illegal. I stood my ground and did not plea; they claim to have found marijuana, but it was not mine and thus far has not been verified; no matter, I am the money guy so they go after me. Of course a later warrant appears, affidavit convoluted all to hell. I stand my ground, charges dismissed; civil suit unsuccessful. Check this one out: State v Barrilleaux, 620 So. 2d 1317; this one is well used in New Mexico and Nebraska, and it eminates from my home state of Louisiana. Think that neuters the Fourth?! I have good cause to suspect backdating,but I am precluded from asking the pointed questions b/c of “qualified immunity.” I have had two goon-stops in my car since; knowledge is power. I do not say shit to them. I do not hate police; I hate crooked actions by crooked police. The DARE program is an indoctrination depot for child informants and should be exposed for what it is, unless of course the future psychotic child snitches are ratting out the local trench-coated dealer on the street corner by the schoolyard. There needs to be mandatory video of police encounters at a residence and there needs to be mandate for a digital paper trial for purported warrant-related documents. For crying out loud, this is the new millenium. Wish I knew then what I know now; my life will never be the same. A useless nursing degree (state license and such), lost relationships, decimated family, but you know, the po-po have a ready made attitude for that: don’t have a conscience, go to the next door. Want a hoot, look at the web site Police Link. Some real cases hang out there.


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