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  1. #1

    Default If There's a Death in Your House, Can You Keep the Police Out

    My question involves civil rights in the State of: Massachusetts

    I have an elderly mother. If she passes, and I call the undertaker, and the police show up, do I have to let the police into the house? I know you never let police into your house without a warrant, but can they enter the house if someone dies?

    Second question: If you're not driving a vehicle, do you have to show a police offer ID if he's not arresting you?

    Thanks
    Rog

  2. #2
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    Default Re: If There's a Death in Your House, Can You Keep the Police Out

    I see no "stop and identify" statute for Mass. That means you do not have to identify yourself to the police.

    as to the police entering in the case of a death; I would think it would be based on the circumstances. If there is no reason to believe there is criminal activity involved, I do not see the cops being able to enter without your permission.
    I am not an attorney and any advice is not to be construed as legal advice. You might even want to ignore my advice. Actually, there are plenty of real attorneys that you might want to ignore as well.

  3. #3

    Default Re: If There's a Death in Your House, Can You Keep the Police Out

    Police, no. Medical examiner, probably, unless the death was attended by a physician, or, a physician whose direct and frequent care she had been receiving is willing to sign off on the passing. When you call the undertaker, they will know the procedure and respond appropriately.
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: If There's a Death in Your House, Can You Keep the Police Out

    I agree with aardvarc regarding the "death in the house" scenario, as far as it goes. However, someone is going to have to declare the death to make it official. That has to be a physician, an undertaker can't do it. In circumstances of a death at a residence (where it is unlikely that a physician will be present at the time of death), that could be a coroner...but, it is unlikely that the coroner is going to show up first or alone. More likely, that will be a hospital doctor after EMTs have either transported the person or communicated their evaluation over the phone or radio. In such a case, first responders have to assume that there is at least the possibility of successful resuscitation efforts. They cannot take a reporting party's telephone declaration that a person is "dead" at face value. So, the police can and will enter the residence in a "community caretaking" function. They are not there to search and, therefore, cannot go poking around. But, they also are not required to be blind to anything they can see in open view while legitimately checking on the deceased. If you really don't want the cops in your house, you will have to have your mom's attending physician on call. He/she will have to respond to the house and make the official death pronouncement. Only then can the funeral home send someone to collect the body.

    Regarding your second question, no, you do not have to show the police a physical form of ID (presuming you are not driving, in an alcohol serving establishment, or some other activity that requires it). However, every state that I know about has some form of "making false statements to police" or "hindering or obstructing police" statute. So, while it is legal to refuse to identify yourself, giving a false name or other identifying information is not. Likewise, if the police are detaining you to investigate your possible involvement in criminal activity, they can not only continue to hold you until they are satisfied they have your true identity, they may also be able to arrest you if your actions "obstruct, hinder, or delay" their investigation - even if their investigation does not reveal probable cause to arrest regarding their original suspicions. The police have to have reasonable suspicion to detain you and conduct such an investigation. But, if they have reasonable suspicion (which doesn't have to be much), identification information is not considered incriminating and, therefore, not protected.
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