Suppose police have a warrant to arrest me for a minor offense, like failure to pay fines.

If police come to my residence and I quietly hide they go away.

If they see me at the window or I speak with them through the locked exterior door will they break in if I refuse to open the door?

  • 9
    I'm not sure about Scotland, but in the US, if they know you are home and you don't let them in, an officer (or two) will wait at your house while they apply for a warrant to enter the property, which they can get in a very short period of time (30 minutes or less depending on the time of day).
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 19:12
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    @RonBeyer depending on the time of day and the jurisdiction. Bureaucracy does not move at the same speed in every place.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 19:36
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    @phoog Yes, of course. They probably won't wake up a judge and post officers after normal business hours for a couple of fines. Ignore it long enough though and they'll get a warrant for entry and keep coming back until you are home, or get you at your place of work.
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 19:44
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    @RonBeyer and again, in some jurisdictions, there will be a judge on call overnight, so there may be no need to wake anyone up. Regardless, pretending not to be home is never going to have better than temporary success.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 20:14
  • 9
    Under traditional English common law, still relevant in many U.S. jurisdictions, there was a distinction between an arrest warrant or search warrant, and a "writ of assistance" which is a separate document authorizing officials to break and enter premises if necessary to carry out another court order. Some modern jurisdictions merge these as different check boxes on the same form, while others keep them distinct. I can't answer as to Scotland in particular.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 22:48

2 Answers 2


It depends on the type of warrant. Failure to pay a fine is not necessarily an arrestable offence.

The Police Scotland Warrants Standard Operating Procedure (710 kB PDF) states:

5.3 Whilst there is no legislative requirement for Officers to physically possess the warrant to force entry / effect arrest, it would be considered best practice if a forced entry is anticipated. There may be instances where this is not practically possible to obtain the warrant in time or it may be geographically challenging to do so. Possession of a scanned copy of the warrant would be good practice on such occasions, again where the circumstances permit.


5.5.1 By virtue of Section 135 Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 an apprehension warrant implies authority, where it is necessary for its execution, to break open shut and lock fast places. Entry into any house or building, therefore, may be affected by any constable in order to execute the warrant in accordance with its terms and only as a last resort.


5.6.1 An Extract Conviction/Means Enquiry Warrant (back fine warrant) is issued by the Clerk of Court when an accused person fails to pay the fine imposed within the period allowed for payment. This extract is a sufficient warrant for the apprehension of the accused, but unlike an ordinary warrant of arrest, it does not authorise a constable to break open doors in order to affect arrest.

Sheriff officers are not police - they are closer to what in England and some parts of the USA would be termed bailiffs, used for civil recovery of debts etc.

  • 13
    Weird how they (correctly) use "effect arrest" at the start of the first quote, then (incorrectly) use "affect arrest" at the end of the last quote.
    – Nat
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 3:08
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    @Nat I'm mostly disappointed they didn't use "affect errest". So that thou even in affect errest on the side of caution!
    – Fax
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 15:20

From https://www.mygov.scot/your-rights-sheriff-officers/

Forcing entry

If a sheriff officer has permission from the court to enter your home or workplace but you don't let them in, they are allowed to use 'necessary reasonable force' to get in.

This means they're allowed to get in by:

  • forcing open a door
  • breaking a lock
  • breaking a window

If you try to stop the officer entering your house or workplace, you could be charged with breach of the peace.

Addendum for clarification: Unless the officers are lazy or otherwise unmotivated, they will break your door and arrest you. It is impossible to answer what they will do, only what they are allowed to do.

  • 4
    Does an arrest warrant by itself constitute permission for a sheriff officer to enter the residence? Also, the link suggests that sheriff officers are distinct from police. The question is about police.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 20:15
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    The same site indeed has separate information about the police arrest procedure: mygov.scot/arrested-your-rights
    – MSalters
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 0:32
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    @StianYttervik "stand your ground" appears very much not to be doctrine in Scotland salvas.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/…
    – origimbo
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 11:52
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    @StianYttervik Even in countries such as the US which do have "stand your ground" rules, "identifying themselves" with documentation is a courtesy. By calling out "Police!" they have identified themselves. In a less urgent situation they should arrange to prove that identity more robustly, but the house owner certainly isn't entitled to hide behind the door and refuse to look at their identification. It would make a mockery of policing if all that was required to avoid arrest was to close your eyes, put your fingers in your ears, and sing "La-la-la-I-can't-hear-you". ;)
    – Graham
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 13:55
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    Calling out “Police” would be a criminal offence. Sherrif’s officers are not police officers, and impersonating a police officer is a crime.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 18:28

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