University of Chicago Legal Forum


A “knock and talk” is a common police practice involving an officer approaching a home and knocking on the front door to speak with a resident. The knock and talk is a long-recognized exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement, making it a powerful police tool to access constitutionally protected areas of the home. But courts have struggled to define the limits of a knock and talk. For example, when police officers knock and receive no answer, can they remain standing at the door, or even roam to other parts of the home?

The Supreme Court grounds the practice in a recognized social license for any person to knock on someone else’s door. But the circuits have developed a chaotic body of rulings that are unmoored from this guiding principle, allowing police to impermissibly expand the scope and duration of knock and talks. This Comment argues that the circuits have expanded or restricted knock and talks in ways inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent, resulting in numerous splits. These splits can be harmonized with a renewed focus on the social license underlying the knock and talk. This would result in common-sense rules that allow police to conduct knock and talks without undermining the Fourth Amendment’s robust protection of the home.

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