Can Cops Order You into Your House

So one night last week 5 police cars pulled over an SUV directly across the street from me, and proceeded to put the occupants in handcuffs and search the vehicle. A couple of my boys decided to go outside for a closer look, joined by another kid from next door.

They were standing complely on my lawn, and were separated from the scene by two lanes of moving traffic plus a service lane and sidewalk. But a cop yelled at them to go back into the house. My kids were a bit ticked and one told me he had rather considered yelling back “hands up don’t shoot” but fortunately he thought better of it (or just chickened out) and they came back in.

But I was wondering if the cop had the legal authority to do what he did, and if so, on what grounds, and what could be the legal consequences for ignoring such an order.

The first return on a google search is this previous thread.

If the police are innocent, why should they fear being observed? What do they have to hide?

It maybe a concern for the safety of the onlookers. Stray bullets and things like that.


That is a consideration but not the first one in most situations. More importantly you now have to have at least one officer that has to no longer concentrate on those getting arrested but on the third parties arriving at the scene. It is an officer safety issue.

The answer to the OP is that legally they can’t do much if you don’t comply. Unless you push things to the point where you are interfering with what they are doing.

Thanks a lot.

FWIW, I just called up the police department to ask this question. I was put through to the “watch commander” (whatever that is), and he pretty much refused to answer the question directly, but what he did say was along the lines of Procustus’ post.

He said it was for their safety, and I said OK but what legal authority did they have, and he said it’s for their safety and they could be shot if the stop turned violent, and I said OK but could they be arrested if they didn’t listen, and he said is it worth them ending up shot on the grass rather than going inside and plus he has a lot of calls he needs to deal with and no time for this, and I said OK thanks.

I wonder if a lot of cops themselves are not too up on the fine points of what they can or cannot legally do, but just know that such-and-such is commonly done for such-and-such reason so it must be OK.

If you or one of your kids gets shot, by accident or malice, what difference does it make it you/your kids were legally in the right? After the shooting, the officer responsible might face prosecution and go to jail, but we know from recent events that is highly unlikely. (all the officer has to say is that he thought he saw one of your kids reaching for a gun, and it’s probably going to be a clean shoot and he gets off scot free)

This is also why open carry is a terrible idea if you value your life. Open carrying a gun is essentially giving every cop a license to kill you at their leisure. All the cop has to say is he thought he saw you reaching for it.

The laws to protect you as a citizen are just some words on a piece of paper written by some old white guys. They don’t mean anything to you unless you are important and have a lot of money.

Under the US Constitution’s Tenth amendment, all powers not explicitly delegated to the federal government are reserved to the States. One of the traditionally recognized powers is a state’s “police power,” which allows states to enforce safety and general welfare. While a state’s ability to enforce its police power is checked by constitutional rights, the power is generally very broad.

Well, that got unnecessarily racial pretty quickly. As mentioned up-thread, it’s an officer safety issue. Any suspect(s) may be potentially violent, and the same applies to onlookers. It’s always wise to remove as much risk from a situation as possible. Onlookers have a tendency to comment loudly, which can escalate a situation, too.

People tend to forget that every call a LEO goes on is potentially dangerous, and they’re human. Concern/fear is a real thing, and a primary contributor to the “atrocities” that we’ve seen over the years.

I ain’t touching the stuff that’s happened recently - people love to get fired up before pesky “facts” get involved.

Obviously he doesn’t have the legal right to order you to leave. The guy you contacted on the phone went around and around but never said they could arrest you if you don’t leave, he just told you all the reasons it would be a good idea if you just did what the cop said.

Cops have some legal authority to force you to obey some types of orders, but just because they don’t have the legal authority to order you to do certain things that doesn’t mean they can’t suggest you do certain things. And they might not have an obligation to explain to you whether they are giving you a legally enforceable order or a suggestion until you ignore them. However, while you won’t face any legal consequences for not following a cop’s suggestions, you might face some extremely unpleasant extralegal consequences up to and including the cop flat-out murdering you in cold blood and then claiming he saw you reaching for your waistband.

That’s not true, either. All the cop has to do is state he’s arresting you for disorderly conduct, and then when he’s putting the cuffs on, exclaim “stop resisting!” as he slams your head into the pavement, etc.

When you get to the station, you’re booked for resisting arrest/disorderly conduct. You now have a criminal record for the arrest - even if you manage to beat the actual charges.

“You now have a criminal record for the arrest - even if you manage to beat the actual charges.”

Managing to beat the charges should be followed by a petition to expunge the arrest record. (Of course, in the internet age, expungements can as a practical matter be effectively meaningless, and it’s sometimes difficult to establish that someone’s made an adverse decision about you based on the use of legally expunged info, but …)

That to my mind is in the category of “extralegal consequences”. Obviously if a cop wants to he can beat the crap out of anyone for any reason and then lie about what happened, and possibly get away with it. That doesn’t make what he did legal, any more than if I steal your stereo and don’t get caught it was legal for me to steal your stereo. It’s not legal for a cop to murder you for disrespecting his authority, even if he never gets caught.

In this situation the cop isn’t arresting you and telling the truth about what happened, he’s making up a story about what you did and arresting you for the fictional charge, and then making up another story about how you resisted arrest and so he had to pound your head on the sidewalk, and then making up another story about how you reached for your waistband and so he had to shoot you 12 times. That the cop has the ability to harass you and injure you and kill you if he doesn’t like you, and possibly get away with it, doesn’t mean he had the legal right to order you back into your house.

If he did have the legal right to order you back into your house he wouldn’t have to make up a story about how you reached for your waistband, he’d simply arrest you for not obeying his legal order and tell the 100% truth at your trial.

And the fact that the people of interest (IE “bad guys”) may decide to play it up if they have an audience.

While Loach was right on (as usual) Kopek hit on part of it also.

But, if I may ask, Fotheringay, how old are your boys? I rarely tell people to go inside unless it’s about what kids will see that they shouldn’t. Yes, I realize some parents really don’t care, and we could debate that all day.

But, many police contacts are not pretty. Besides the things that suspects have said, gestured and/or expelled during contacts, it can be disturbing to kids to see adults loudly cursing, crying and trying to fight with police officers and I wouldn’t want minor children viewing that.

my 2 cents,


These two are 17 & 15. The kid next door is probably 14 or 15.

I don’t think these things were issues. The suspects were a good 70 feet away from where they stood, and there were two lanes of passing cars between them. (Eventually one was released and the other taken away in a police car. Police drove the SUV away.)

This reads to me that the perps were already in handcuffs.

If they get loose and get a gun from an officer, by that time the officer is dead because of major stupidity.

OK, some questions answered while I was typing slow.

If the kids were standing quiet is way different than if they were being asshat teenagers.

I would like a measured distance that they were from the police cars. That would indicate the danger level under the watchers doing different things.

If the perps were not in handcuffs, IMO, the cop who turned away to yell at people across 2 roads should go back to training.

Was it totally dark?
How many perps?
Were the perps already in cuffs?
Were the perps still struggling?
What was the actual distance?
How were the teens behaving?
5 cars = more than 3 cops so why would they not have things in hand by the time the rubber necks assembled?

Questions, questions… :smiley:

No sunlight, but some streetlights. (It’s a fairly dark street as streets go, but there are some streetlights.)

  1. Though I don’t know if both were “perps”. One was let go.

IIRC, yes.


About 50 feet or so to the row of police cars, 70 feet to where they were standing.

As you would expect from junior Fotheringay-Phippses, IOW as fine young gentlemen. (Ditto for the neighbor.)

Things seemed to be in hand throughout. My experience with the local cops is that they tend to get a lot of cops for relatively slight matters.

Not if you have the whole episode on video.