Created By: TRICOV on March 29, 2011 Last Edited By: TRICOV on March 11, 2015
Nuked

Don't Let the Cops into the House

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Trope
Mr. Doe is alone at home. Doorbell rings. He opens the door. Two men in dark suits. "Mr. Doe? Police." They show a badge. "We have some questions. May we come in?"

Poor Mr. Doe has only two choices.

1) He's polite and a good citizen. He says "Ah, uh, sure." He steps back and lets them in.

2) He's surprised. He stutters "Wha, wha, huh? What is this about?" The cops grin broadly and charge forward. Mr. Doe has to jump aside to avoid being hit. They get in.

One of the cops will sit with Mr. Doe in the living room and ask the questions. The other one will start walking around, looking at everything, even though they have no search warrant. He will check the bookcases, look into the drawers, go through Mr. Doe's stuff on his desk, and, if the computer is on, he will even start browsing Mr. Doe private files. If Mr. Doe notices and tries to do something, the other one will yell "SIT DOWN AND ANSWER THE QUESTIONS!" When Mr. Doe finally gets angry, it's too late: the searching cop has already found juicy bits of evidence. "Oh, Mr. Doe, you have porn in your bookcase? And there's a gun here in an unlocked drawer. That's against the law! And what are these naughty pics in your computer? The girls seem underage."

Police-themed TV shows have been doing this for decades. Every police show ever aired has scenes like this one. You'd think it's about time for citizens to start getting genre-savvy, and learn that the cops have no right to invade your house if you don't want them to, and that, if they try the "charge forward" trick, all you have to do is stand your ground and they will be forced to back off. You can answer their questions in the garden, or the garage, or the bar next block. Just don't let them in your house.

Examples: every crime television series has this. Here are a few:

  • CSI, all of them
  • Inspector Morse
  • Law & Order
  • Lewis
  • Miami Vice
  • Inspector Lynley Mysteries

Community Feedback Replies: 38
  • March 29, 2011
    INDIOTIK
    Totally agree, we need this one. In English detective shows, happens all the time. It's infuriating. The coppers always bully you, let themselves into your house, then start rummaging around and bingo! find stuff they can use to put pressure on you. It's as if those poor suckers were incapable of firmly refusing them entry! And once they are in it's even more difficult to keep them in check.

    I remember one scene, I forgot in what show, the inspector is questioning some guy at his place and suddenly we hear the voice of the sergeant at the other end of the hall: "HAH! This dude is a member of a sex chat room, and his code name is so-and-so, and this morning he made a date with this here girl!" The poor sod looks that way and sees the sergeant sitting at his computer, typing on the keyboard, sniffing out all his secrets.
  • March 30, 2011
    AFP
    For a subversion, have the cops present the warrant first, or else end up having their evidence tossed out because it was obtained illegally. For an aversion, the cops leave and come back with a warrant.

    Related to Flashed Badge Hijack.

    Also, Needs A Better Name. Unwarranted Entry has just the right amount of pun.
  • March 30, 2011
    TwinBird
    The networks in the US are actually paid to do this. The reason is that although cops, like vampires, need to be invited in, they don't have to tell you that, and once you have invited them in, anything that's out in the open is fair game, including anything that might indicate "exigent circumstances."
  • March 30, 2011
    Bisected8
    The "evidence being challenged because of this" varient is pretty much a Once An Episode thing across the Law And Order franchise.
  • March 30, 2011
    Jordan
    They weren't really police, but Those Two Bad Guys in Neverwhere get into the protagonist's apartment this way at the beginning of the novel.

    I haven't seen the show in a while, so maybe someone can fill in details- but in The Last Detective, while a Nice Guy, Dangerous Davies seemed to do this kind of thing a lot in addition to sneaking around people's property without a warrant (not sure if the legality of that in the United Kingdom).
  • March 30, 2011
    TBTabby
    An episode of All In The Family has Archie getting arrested for posession of a weapon without a permit when he lets a policeman into his house, but the case is thrown out of court because he didn't have a search warrant. The plot is meant to deliver an Aesop about why policemen have limits on how they can enforce the law.
  • March 30, 2011
    randomsurfer
    @Twin Bird: I'm gonna call Citation Needed on "The networks in the US are actually paid to do this."
  • March 30, 2011
    mack
    • Happens all the time on COPS.
    • The Flex Your Rights organisation has a 10 rule, 4 part youtube video which explains a citizen's rights in the USA. It's drilled in repeatedly that unless they have a warrant or probable cause, that the citizen can refuse a search and the police have no right to do it anyway.
  • March 30, 2011
    TikunA
    Very good, an extremely common situation in detective series, definitely a trope that needs an article. But Needs A Better Name indeed.

    AFP, I like Unwarranted Entry, you have my vote.
  • March 30, 2011
    SilentReverence
    @randomsurfer: "A common protest seen on The Other Wiki. Luckily, TV Tropes is not like that."

    Thing is, if they are being paid to they are not gonna leave evidence.
  • March 30, 2011
    Jordan
    Didn't Colombo do this a lot?
  • March 30, 2011
    randomsurfer
    ^^Then how does Twin Bird know? I mean, without any attribution/proof this seems like the sort of thing that Time Cube/Conservapedia-type sites throw about.
  • March 30, 2011
    Specialist290
    • Happens to the female protagonist of Wait Until Dark, when two men posing as police investigators (actually criminals seeking a cocaine-laden doll that was mistakenly delivered to her house) enter and slowly begin abusing her hospitality to try to get the doll from her. She eventually cottons on to the truth.
  • March 30, 2011
    Micah
    Your examples list needs less X Just X.
  • March 30, 2011
    SpiderRider3
    Put in a paragraph about how it's Truth In Television. A lot of people don't realize they can refuse to let the police in and think they'll be arrested if they do.
  • March 30, 2011
    Speedball
    I like Unwarrented Entry too. This is a good one.
  • March 30, 2011
    TikunA
    Totally Truth In Television. It'a VERY important point.

    The article will teach readers something useful about their rights.
  • March 31, 2011
    INDIOTIK
    That video from FYR must be linked. This one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmrbNLt7Om8

    A couple of points in common to Flashed Badge Hijack trope, worth mentioning.
  • April 1, 2011
    TRICOV
    From the "Inspector Morse" series, The Way Through the Woods has a scene where Morse threatens a family - who stupidly invited him into their house - with arresting them and then calling a police squad to pull their house apart in search for evidence. He claims he can do that to them - or whatever else he wants - because they have a hunting gun on a table, and English law says firearms have to be locked in a special closet. Since they broke the law and he's a witness to it, now he can stomp on them as much as he wants.

    Had they refused to let him in, they'd have had no trouble at all.
  • April 1, 2011
    Rolf
  • April 1, 2011
    TRICOV
    Hey, I didn't know we had that index! Good call, Rolf.
  • April 4, 2011
    TRICOV
    Another one I just remembered: inspector Maigret. Many episodes.
  • April 4, 2011
    TikunA
    In Lynley they pull several times this stunt: get invited into someone's house, then search his/her computer and look at the history and all the private files. Sometimes they do it while the person is distracted, sometimes they threaten him/her to get his consent, and in one infamous occasion Havers just finds the door open so she gets in and starts searching.
  • March 5, 2015
    TheHandle
    bump
  • March 5, 2015
    DAN004
    Not going to take this seriously until:
  • March 6, 2015
    eroock
    Reminded me of this joke.
  • March 6, 2015
    eroock
  • March 6, 2015
    lexicon
    Why on earth does this have two hats? It's missing a laconic, description, and context for the examples. I don't think it's trope worthy anyway.
  • March 6, 2015
    nielas
    ^ It's a 2011 YKTTW and standards were much laxer back then. It needs a serious rewrite by whoever takes it over.
  • March 6, 2015
    henke37
    I seem to recall that some vampire stories have the same rule, they can't enter if they aren't invited in.
  • March 6, 2015
    randomsurfer
  • March 7, 2015
    marcoasalazarm
    A variation of this trope would be cops checking a door, finding it unlocked, and taking this as an invitation to enter the house/room within it that the warrant doesn't covers and ransack it for clues.
  • March 7, 2015
    Daefaroth
    I think another YKTTW Improbable Cause For Entry would be a better starting point. It has actual examples and a lot less anti-authority bias.
  • March 7, 2015
    lexicon
    Improbable Cause For Entry might work. This one says, "You'd think it's about time for citizens to start getting genre-savvy, and learn that the cops have no right to invade your house if you don't want them to..." when only in certian countries you have the right to privacy and it's about the law, not being Genre Savvy. This also says, "Mr. Doe, you have porn in your bookcase? And there's a gun here in an unlocked drawer. That's against the law!" when in Hollywood shows both porn and guns would be legal. Letting them in is giving consent and stopping them is assult of a police officer.
  • March 7, 2015
    eroock
    ^^ Good find.
  • March 7, 2015
    marcoasalazarm
    This Trope and the Improbable Cause For Entry Trope could be combined, because they do focus on slightly different things (even if this one requires some changes on the phrasing) that could be used as an alternative for that trope.

    "Improbable Cause For Entry" as it is phrased right now covers the cops (typically a Cowboy Cop) pretending he's hearing someone calling for help inside of a location so he can freely kick the door down or pretending that the door he forced open was already open in case of inquiry, while this trope is about the cops entering the house with the pretense of "asking some questions" (probably understood as routine stuff like names, confirming that they live there and probably asking if they saw something) and then violating the suspect's hospitality by taking their acceptance as permission to perform Perp Sweating, permission to ransack the house to look for clues (and/or both), and then taking the suspect's obvious ire at their abuse as an example of Conviction By Contradiction.
  • March 11, 2015
    robbulldog
    I've begun the process of merging this YKTTW into Improbable Cause For Entry and renaming it (unless we come up with a better name) "No Warrant? No Problem". Recommend discussion on the combined trope take place on that YKTTW.
  • March 11, 2015
    DAN004
    Merge plz.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=xchk4nlww4tlsvoqoz3f05j6